Three employees of two neighborhood grocery stores in Camden were arrested yesterday on charges of defrauding the federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra Jr. said.

Rafael Rosario, 52, of Pennsauken, and Maria Magdalena Rodriguez Caba, 31, of Camden, who work at Melina Grocery, and Arsenio Vargas Nunez, 31, of Camden, who works at Caba Grocery, are each charged in a separate complaint with one count of embezzling benefits from what was formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider detained Nunez due to his immigration status, and held Caba pending a bail hearing. Rosario was released after posting a $100,000 bond.

According to the criminal complaints, the defendants would exchange food-aid benefits for a lesser amount of cash. The defendants would typically give cash to the customer that represented 50 percent of the total value of food-aid benefits charged against the customer's electronic benefits account, Marra's office said in a news release.    - Inquirer staff