The scam came to light after the New York Post revealed that some New Yorkers on welfare are buying food with their benefit cards and then sending it to their relatives in the Caribbean.
The Post went on to detail an account by two women who admitted that they conspired to ship food obtained through welfare in New York to the Dominican Republic to be sold on that country’s black market.
The women, who are sisters, admitted sending the American products to Santiago for a profit, according to the newspaper.
“It’s a really easy way to make money, and it doesn’t cost me anything,” said Maria-Teresa, a 47-year-old “vendor” who added that she gets the products from her sister in New York.
Maria-Teresa retains some of the products for her own personal use and sells the rest out of her Santiago home at significantly lower prices than those obtainable in local shops.
One of her bestselling items is the 24-ounce box of Frosted Flakes cereal which she sells for US$2, compared to the US$4 charged for a Dominican counterpart.
Another of her popular items is Enfamil baby formula, which she sells for $15 – way below the $25 cost in the United States and a significant saving on the $19 price in Santiago shops.
“People want the best quality for the price, so they buy the formula made in the United States,” she told the Post.