– Attorney General Anne Milgram and
Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni
announced that a former employee of the City
of Newark and two grocery store owners were
indicted for conspiring to steal hundreds
of thousands of dollars from the federally
funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition
program by means of fraudulent vouchers.
to Director Gramiccioni, the Division of Criminal
Justice obtained an eight-count state grand
jury indictment yesterday charging the following
Audrey Walker Bey, 36,
of Newark, a former clerk for the Newark
Benedicto Bernal, 30, of
Newark, owner of Dreamers Supermarket on
7th Ave. in Newark; and
Elvis Manuel Sanchez-Vasquez, 35,
a former owner and manager of Sanchez Supermarket
on Springdale Avenue in East Orange.
of the defendants was charged with conspiracy
(1st degree), two counts of financial facilitation
of criminal activity (money laundering) (1st
degree), official misconduct (2nd degree),
pattern of official misconduct (2nd degree),
theft by deception (2nd degree), and receiving
stolen property (2nd degree). Bernal was also
charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution
(3rd degree) for allegedly lying to investigators.
is unconscionable that public officials responsible
for administering a nutrition program that
serves some of our most disadvantaged children
chose instead to serve their own selfish interests,
diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars
in program funds,” said Attorney General
Milgram. “We are continuing our investigation
to bring all of those responsible for these
thefts to justice.”
Bey allegedly used her position as a clerk
for the Newark WIC Program to issue and print
thousands of fraudulent vouchers. An ongoing
investigation by the Division of Criminal
Justice Corruption Bureau revealed that between
Dec. 1, 2005, and Jan. 31, 2007, Walker Bey
and other employees of the Newark WIC Program
– including two former clerks who previously
entered guilty pleas – conspired to
issue more than $1 million in fake vouchers.
It is alleged that Bernal, who was not an
authorized WIC vendor, purchased the fraudulent
vouchers from Walker Bey and the other clerks
involved in the scheme and resold them by
the stack to vendors in Essex, Camden, Union
and Middlesex counties, including Sanchez-Vasquez.
Ultimately, the fraudulent vouchers were deposited
into the bank accounts of more than 20 WIC-authorized
vendors throughout New Jersey.
investigation began when the New Jersey Department
of Health and Senior Services and the Newark
Department of Health and Human Services alerted
the Division of Criminal Justice to suspected
thefts of vouchers from the Newark WIC Program.
Attorneys General Michael Monahan and Jeffrey
Manis are prosecuting the case. Monahan presented
the case to the state grand jury. The investigation
is being conducted by Detective Michael Behar
and Sgt. David Salzmann of the Division of
Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, with the
assistance of Administrative Analyst Kathleen
is a federally funded program, administered
by the New Jersey Department of Health and
Senior Services, that provides low-income
women who are pregnant or breast feeding and
guardians of children up to age 5 with vouchers
to purchase nutritional necessities, including
baby formula, milk, orange juice and cereal.
The vouchers can be redeemed at any store
approved as a WIC vendor for food items specifically
listed on the voucher. Once redeemed, the
vendor completes the voucher by filling in
the cost of the product supplied. The Newark
WIC Program is one of 18 WIC programs in New
will work aggressively to uncover and prosecute
anyone who attempts to defraud government
assistance programs,” said Director
Gramiccioni. “In partnership with the
state agencies involved, we will remain vigilant
to prevent corrupt government employees from
exploiting their positions of trust to steal
from these programs.”
crimes carry a maximum sentence of 20 years
in state prison and a $200,000 fine, while
second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence
of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
The first-degree money laundering charges
carry a period of parole ineligibility equal
to one-third to one-half of the prison sentence
imposed and a fine of up to $500,000.
indictment is merely an accusation and the
defendants are presumed innocent until proven
guilty. A copy of the indictment is posted
with this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court
Judge Linda R. Feinberg in Mercer County,
who assigned the case to Mercer County.
Bey was arrested in May 2008 as a result of
the investigation and is free on $40,000 bail.
Bernal was arrested today at his store in
Newark and will be processed in Mercer County.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Sanchez-Vasquez,
who remains a fugitive.
Feb. 23, Charles Brown, 41, of Newark, a former
senior clerk for the Newark WIC Program was
sentenced to eight years in state prison for
his role in the scheme by Superior Court Judge
Michael A. Petrolle in Essex County. Brown
pleaded guilty on Dec. 5 to second-degree
Feb. 20, another former senior clerk in the
Newark WIC Program, Wyetta Judson, 38, of
Newark, pleaded guilty to second-degree official
misconduct. She has not been sentenced yet.
state will recommend that she also be sentenced
to state prison.
May 15, 2008, Leocadia Cepeda, 38, the owner
of G&S Supermarket on Westminster Avenue
in Elizabeth, was indicted for allegedly obtaining
more than 500 WIC vouchers that she knew were
stolen and using them to fraudulently collect
more than $25,000 from the state Department
of Health and Senior Services. Cepeda was
admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program
on the condition that she pay full restitution
and cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
General Milgram and Criminal Justice Director
Gramiccioni noted that the Division of Criminal
Justice - Corruption Bureau has established
a statewide Corruption Tipline: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.
Additionally, the public can log on to the
Division’s Web page at www.njdcj.org
to report suspected wrongdoing. All information
received through the Division of Criminal
Justice Corruption Tipline or Web page will