We all know the old ditty, “Food, glorious food,” the one that pries your brain open and pops an image of some steaming lasagna in there. Well, according to MeridenPatch.com, authorities say three individuals from New Haven were singing quite a different version after exchanging Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for cash. Maybe since they changed the name from the ‘Food Stamps’ program to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), there may be a lack of clarification in that food benefits are meant to pay for food? Last time I checked, you can’t eat a cigarette.
The article reports that the three men are accused of defrauding the SNAP program from 2010 to 2012 by “dispensing cash in exchange for funds” from store patrons’ EBT cards at convenience stores. How do the authorities say the fraud occurred? According to affidavits, undercover agents engaged in conversation with store workers, asked for a cash transaction in exchange for EBT credit, and each time the suspects agreed. In one instance, authorities say one man dispensed $60 to one of the undercover agents in return for almost $110 in food stamp benefits. (If true, that’s a big “no no.”)
The article reports that one store redeemed almost $430,000 in SNAP funds over a year and a half, while another store implicated in the case allegedly redeemed over $1.4 million in SNAP benefits in the same amount of time. (If true, this would bring a whole new meaning to the term “employee of the month.”) All three men face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted.
It is, of course, important to note that these defendants are merely accused; they are innocent until proven guilty. Regardless of the outcome in this particular case, we can learn something from this article: it seems pretty easy to trade EBT cards for cash and rip off the American public in the process. Now that we know the problem, let’s find a solution.
So, here’s my question for the day: how would you stop fraudsters from trading EBT cards for cash?