By Todd Shepherd | Watchdog.org
Fraud is skyrocketing as states shift from issuing paper-based food stamps to plastic, electronic benefits transfer cards preloaded with a monthly limit of cash intended only for food purchases.
Examples of fraud prompted Congress to take action, with President Obama signing a law in February intended to prevent EBT cardholders from spending their money on tattoos and at strip clubs, liquor stores and casinos.
Here’s a state-by-state listing of some EBT fraud stories:
Alabama: Not fraudulent, but are EBT cards becoming a status symbol? In Alabama, a place called the “Rose Supper Club” gives you $5 off the cover price if you show your EBT card. It’s a promotion called “Food Stamp Fridays.”
Arizona: A 15-month investigation found roughly $700-K in EBT fraud. 18 indictments.
California: $69 million in EBT funds withdrawn outside the state’s borders in recent years, including almost $12 million withdrawn in Las Vegas.
Connecticut: 27 state workers fired, 10 others retire after investigation finds massive insider fraud by government bureaucrats.
Florida: Investigators find that sales of EBT cards at less than full value results in a $2-million swindle.
Georgia: Man pleads guilty to EBT card scam valued at $4.6 million, believed to be largest food stamp fraud ever in the state.
Illinois: Sting on “LINK” cards believed to have generated $40,000 monthly revenue for one of the families accused of participating in the alleged fraud ring.
Iowa: Grocer, a former City Council member, convicted of witness tampering during food stamp investigation and trial. In a separate story, Iowa inmates found to have been illegally receiving food stamp benefits while incarcerated.
Kansas: Authorities believe as many as 7,000 fraudulent users of EBT cards are costing the state $22-million.
Louisiana: Eight arrested in food stamp fraud. In late 2011, the state said it had 474 active investigations into possible EBT fraud/abuse.
Maine: “Tip of the iceberg” investigation nets five indictments.
Maryland: Believed to be No. 2 in the nation in EBT card fraud, with one in four card applications “showing evidence of fraud.”
Massachusetts: Stores accused of buying EBT cards at discounted prices, and hooking up EBT card users with crack cocaine dealers.
Missouri: Welfare cards being spent in such distant places as Florida and Hawaii.
New Hampshire: Report says 10 percent of all registered food stamp recipients live out of state.
Ohio: Audit finds 33,000 replacement EBT cards ordered in one year. “[M]ore than 1,500 people in Hamilton County have ordered 10 replacement cards or more since 2006.”
Texas: State faced $4 million in federal fines for errors in issuing food stamps.
Washington: Store owner sentenced to 21 months in prison: $170,000 in her bank account on the day of the raid.
Wisconsin: Nine county workers suspected in multi-year fraud that scammed $300-K or more.