Pair charged with felonies

FAIRMONT — A Fairmont man and woman are facing felony charges in Martin County.

Francisco Hernandez Guzman, 44, and Allison Marie Johnson, 28, have been charged with trafficking Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Johnson’s charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, while Guzman’s charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In addition, both face a charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance by theft, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

According to the complaint:

On Oct. 7, 2016, a fraud investigator received a phone call from an anonymous party wishing to report that Johnson had been selling her SNAP benefits to a male party known as “Poncho.” The reporting party did not know the man’s real name, only that he lived on Dewey Street in Fairmont and drove a four-door Chrysler 300. The caller said the man kept an electronic benefits transfer card on him at all times, and Johnson does not use the card.

The caller said that when Johnson’s EBT card is credited with her monthly benefit amount, the man comes to her home and gives her $200, roughly half of what Johnson receives for her benefit in food support.

The investigator ran Johnson’s EBT card report, which shows when and where her EBT card was used and in what amounts. The investigator discovered there was activity on Johnson’s card in several states. The investigator also discovered several purchases made in St. James and Worthington at Mexican specialty food stores. There were also several purchases made at stores in Fairmont.

The investigator went to one of the stores in Fairmont, where video footage showed a male use Johnson’s EBT card on July 23, 2016, Sept. 18, 2016 and Oct. 2, 2016.

The investigator then made contact with the Fairmont Police Department to see if any of the officers knew who “Poncho” was. The investigator was advised that “Poncho” is Guzman, and that he lived on Dewey Street and drives a Chrysler 300.

On Nov. 8, 2016, the investigator observed video surveillance from another merchant in Fairmont, which showed a male using Johnson’s EBT card on three occasions in September and October 2016.

On Jan. 12, 2017, the investigator received notice that Johnson had moved to the 100 block of Lincoln Street in Fairmont. The investigator went to the residence to speak with Johnson.

The investigator advised Johnson of her findings. Johnson said Guzman is the father of a friend of hers. Johnson said she was running into rough times, and her friend said she could sell her EBT card to her father. Johnson said Guzman gave her $200 a month to use the card, dropping off the money at her house.

The investigator showed Johnson her application for benefits, on which it specifically states that selling EBT cards is a crime, and that Johnson had signed the application. The investigator asked Johnson if she understood and Johnson said she did.

On Jan. 17, 2017, the investigator, along with a Spanish interpreter, went to Guzman’s residence to interview him. During the interview, Guzman admitted to using Johnson’s EBT card and said Johnson owed him about $300, so she gave him the card to use.

Guzman had previously signed a Combined Application with Human Services, in which it stated that it is a crime to use someone else’s EBT card.

The investigator was able to obtain video surveillance of Guzman purchasing $1,239 of merchandise with Johnson’s EBT car at various merchants in Martin County. Johnson became technically ineligible for the SNAP program when she began selling benefits to Guzman. From July 2016 until the cancellation of her card in January 2017, Johnson received SNAP benefits she was not entitled to receive in the amount of $3,092.