Criminal – Sentencing – Money laundering – Food stamp fraud



UNITED STATES, Appellee, v. BEPSY O. AGUASVIVAS–CASTILLO, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 10–1460

— January 17, 2012

Bepsy Aguasvivas–Castillo, the owner of a supermarket chain in Puerto Rico, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and one count of money laundering.   He had engaged in and enlisted his family in an illegal scheme in which the supermarkets he owned and operated provided cash for food stamps beyond Puerto Rico’s permissible limits.   Some fourteen defendants were originally charged.   Several, including some of Aguasvivas–Castillo’s family members, pled guilty and testified against him.

All told, the supermarkets’ illegal receipts from the fraud, conservatively estimated to be over $4 million, were intermingled with over $20 million in food stamp funds.   Aguasvivas–Castillo was sentenced to 108 months in prison and ordered to forfeit the amount of $20 million.   He appeals only from his sentence, arguing that two sentencing guideline enhancements were erroneously applied, and he challenges the amount of the forfeiture order under the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.   We affirm the district court’s application of the sentence enhancements as well as its forfeiture order.

Aguasvivas–Castillo was the president, owner, and sole shareholder of Aguasvivas Food Market, Inc. (AFMI) and Aguasvivas Borinquen, Inc. (ABI).  AFMI owned a grocery store located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and another in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. ABI owned an additional grocery store in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 2001, Aguasvivas–Castillo applied for NAP-certification for each of the three supermarkets, and received the certifications in September of 2001.   From that point until his indictment in 2007, he owned and operated the three NAP-certified stores, at which food stamp participants could use their EBT-debit cards to obtain food and cash.   The fraudulent scheme started as soon as the certifications issued and only slowed down after the fraud investigation began and a search warrant was served in 2006.

Detailed judgment link: here

Alternative link: here