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Holley store worker, 56 customers charged in welfare scam

A fourth member of the Salamaca family that operates Murray’s Superette in Holley has been charged in a continuing investigation of alleged welfare fraud, Orleans County law enforcement officials reported Wednesday in Albion, the county seat.

In addition, charges were placed against 56 of their customers who allegedly took part in the fraud, officials said.

Taras R. Salamaca, 51, of Kendall Road, Holley, who worked at the store operated by his three brothers, was arrested by the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force on felony counts of third-degree grand larceny; first-degree scheme to defraud; misuse of food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards and electronic devices; and criminal sale of untaxed cigarettes.

The charges were placed after authorities interviewed more than 130 customers who used welfare electronic benefit cards at the store in 2014 and 2015.

District Attorney Joseph V. Cardone and Investigator Joseph F. Sacco said Salamaca was arraigned before Murray Town Justice Gary Pasarell and released without bail until March 9 court proceedings.

The 56 store customers accused of welfare fraud and misuse of food stamps have been issued appearance tickets for Murray Town Court on various dates over the next few weeks.

Cardone and Sacco said the investigation, which led to the October arrests of Alexander R. Salamaca, 49; Myron B. Salamaca, 60; and Olec Salamaca, 62, all of Holley, is continuing. More arrests are possible.

The investigation, which began in 2014, uncovered food stamp and untaxed cigarette trafficking schemes at the Murray Superette between July 2014 and last October.

The Major Felony Crime Task Force is working with the Orleans County Department of Social Services welfare fraud unit and the District Attorney’s Office on the case.

Raids on the Salamaca brothers’ homes and the local Salamaca Estate Winery last fall by federal agents and agents from the county welfare fraud unit and Orleans County sheriff’s deputies led to the seizures of dozens of cartons of untaxed cigarettes, more than $22,000 cash, a loaded handgun and several rifles and shotguns, numerous financial records, state benefit cards and computer equipment all allegedly linked to the case.

The district attorney said evidence shows the Salamacas and their store workers were illegally exchanging Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program food stamps for cash, paying customers 70 percent of the value of the food stamps and allowing customers to use food stamps to buy unauthorized items not covered by the food stamp program, including regular and untaxed cigarettes, alcohol, New York State Lottery tickets, gasoline and a number of other nonpermitted items.

The cases against the three Salamaca brothers who were charged in October are pending, but court records were unavailable late Wednesday.