A 58-year-old Federal Way-area business owner has been charged with 23 counts of identity theft for allegedly stealing money from the accounts of people who receive food assistance from the federal government.
John A. Comoza has been summoned to Pierce County Superior Court on Tuesday for arraignment.
Prosecutors contend Comoza pilfered nearly $9,500 from the EBT cards of 23 people between August and October 2012. The cards are issued to people who qualify for food stamps.
How he allegedly pulled off the thefts was not spelled out in court records, but detectives say Comoza's business -- John's Meat and Seafood -- accepted EBT cards as payment. The business used "off-line procedures to secure reimbursement for purchases made with EBT cards," court records show. Such procedures do not require the use of a PIN number, the records show.
Police began investigating Comoza after a woman discovered a $300 debit from her EBT card that she did not authorize.
"When she called to determine what had happened to the funds, she was told that $300 had been paid to John's Meat," court records show. The woman said she'd not purchased anything from John's Meat.
A Tacoma police detective assigned to the case discovered "additional victims statewide who had unauthorized transactions to their EBT cards by John's Meat and Seafood," the records show.
Money from those unauthorized debits was then deposited into bank accounts controlled by Comoza, the records show.
Efforts to contact Comoza were not immediately successful. Prosecutors wrote in court documents that he has left the state.