Upon getting married, couples have the option to write their own vows, or recite prewritten vows before the official “I do.”  I’ve been to many weddings, and perhaps it’s protocol to leave the next statement out, but never have I heard:  “I vow to commit Food Stamp fraud with you, in the face of criminal charges and jail time.”  I’m guessing it takes the romantic success out of bilking the government as a couple.  According to a KWTX article, one Texas couple had an understanding to defraud until they were caught.

A Waco, Texas business man pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a food stamp scam he was running out of his store.  One week later, the man’s wife pleaded guilty to the same crime.  Investigators revealed the man and wife owned and operated a food mart that participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) a.k.a food stamps.  The program, operated by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), allows participating stores to accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards that are used as currency to purchase food.  The USDA later reimburses the store with money in return for the SNAP benefits. (This is a system that is intended to provide assistance to people who are in need of food; criminals have found a way to cash in on those benefits by providing the recipients cash for their benefits.)

The couple explained the process of their fraud, a process similar to most food stamp fraud scams nationwide. (If we experience this problem nationwide, why can’t we implement a system or rule that stops the issue in its tracks?  For example, putting picture IDs and names of beneficiaries on the cards for verification.) Both the husband and wife would accept SNAP EBT cards, similar to debit cards, and charge for a specific amount; let’s say $200.  They then would pocket 50 percent of the $200 and return $100 cash to the benefits recipient.  After submitting their reports to the USDA, the USDA would reimburse the store for all benefits received for “food.”  Investigators believe the couple defrauded the U.S. government out of a total of $350,000.  Officials commented that this was the second case of food stamp/SNAP fraud in the Waco, Texas area in recent months.

This couple displays quite the commitment to being criminals amongst their marriage.  Perhaps it’s like a Bonnie and Clyde type of thing:  “We fraud together, we go to jail together.”

  1. Larry,
    I’m not sure requiring photo ID and beneficiary names on the EBT cards will solve the problem. What occurs to me is that maybe the USDA should limit stores who are allowed to accept EBT to those that use UPC scanners. The stores should also be required to swipe the cards before any of the purchases are scanned and make sure their systems are programmed to indicate when an ineligible item has been scanned so it can be removed from the purchases to be made with the card.
    This way the stores EBT sales records can be audited.

  2. Replying to Cathy McGuire’s post, Cathy you are 100% correct. EBT cards should only be accepted at stores that have UPC scanning technology to allow for auditing. In addition, scanning the card up front will allow the system to disqualify items such as been and cigarettes. The idea of adding the picture is to easily identify the cardholder as a legitimate user of the funds. We have listed numerous states that have hundreds of individuals that call up and claim to have lost their cards, multiple times per month. For thoise that are legitimately lost a picture will preclude another individual form using it. For those that lose their card more than twice per year, you should be out of luck. LB

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