SALEM -- Nearly a dozen people were arrested this week for allegedly defrauding Oregon's food stamp program.
Police said Holver Paniagua-Millan was the ringleader. They believe he used his Salem business - Paniagua Produce - to purchase food stamps from people at half the value and bilk the system for about $10,000 a month.
Paniagua-Millan was arrested for racketeering after police put his business under surveillance. Investigators said he was often using the EBT cards to purchase merchandise for his store.
Meleda Cook, 54, of Keizer; Heidi Timberman, 40, of Salem; Joseph Sieg, 49, of Salem; Mary Vaughn, 55, of Salem; Ronnie Crawley, 32, of Salem; and Melanie Farmer, 39, of Keizer, were also arrested and accused of food stamp fraud.
Bob Ullom, 51, of Salem; Craig Clendennen, 47, of Salem; and Amber Roseander, 19, of Salem also faced food stamp fraud, along with identity theft charges.
Investigators believe the suspects intentionally misused Oregon Trail debit cards.
About 809,000 Oregonians receive food stamps, which translates into one in five, according to state statistics. The agency reports a fraud rate of ½ of 1%. In 2012, investigators looked into roughly 4,000 cases of alleged misuse. Of those, around 1,000 people were disqualified from food stamps and ten were convicted on food stamp fraud charges.