Portland resident indicted in Guam bid-rigging conspiracy

DEFENDANTS: Singeo Singenes, left, and Innocencia Esirom leave the District Court of Guam after a hearing in Hagåtña in February. They pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and were sentenced Friday to a year in federal prison. Post file photo

Innocencia Esirom pleaded for District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood to let her husband and co-defendant, Singeo Singenes, off the hook during the couple's sentencing hearing on Friday.

"I'm begging, on behalf of my husband, if you can free him and let me take the responsibility," Esirom, 56, said. "Let him free to take care of our son and step-children, and let me go to jail."

Esirom is represented by attorney Jay Arriola.

"I am very sorry for what I did. I was aware of what I did and the law," she said. "I didn't mean to fraud, steal from or disrespect the federal (government)."

Singenes, 63, a retired school teacher, represented by attorney Leilani Lujan, also addressed the court.

"I am so remorseful," said Singenes. "I learned my lesson. Please consider my plea. I am very sorry. Please be so kind. I promise I will never do it again. I just want to help my children, my church and my community."

The couple was sentenced to serve one year and one day in federal prison.

Both pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of food stamp benefits. 

The pair owned and operated S&I Mart, a small convenience store in Barrigada. They engaged in fictional and illegal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamp, transactions between March 1, 2011, and Sept. 1, 2013.

As part of the plea agreement, the court dismissed the charge of wire fraud initially filed against them in the indictment.

The pair were ordered to pay $490,000 in restitution.

They were allowed to remain out of prison and will self-surrender once the Bureau of Prisons designates where they will serve their sentence.

Tydingco-Gatewood said the court also notes the deportation consequences both defendants face once they complete their time in prison.

Singenes and Esirom admitted to allowing SNAP recipients to fraudulently obtain cash out of their food stamp benefits. 

Moreover, the defendants charged higher prices to SNAP recipients purchasing merchandise on credit and charged them a $20 late fee if they failed to pay their balance at the beginning of the month.

The practice of accepting SNAP benefits as payment on credit accounts or loans was a violation of the program and accounted for 90% of the store’s sales, the prosecution stated.

“The USDA investigation revealed a continuous pattern of fraud by these defendants over a substantial period of time ... That these defendants would defraud not only the program, but also the recipients is unconscionable," stated Shawn Anderson, the U.S. attorney for Guam.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the USDA Office of Inspector General investigated the case. The case was prosecuted by Marivic P. David, assistant U.S. attorney.