Personal Stories and Other Significant News

Food stamp fraud sweep nets 62

Posted on Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More than 60 welfare recipients in Palm Beach County have been rounded up in what authorities dubbed Operation Easy Money.
The arrests follow an 18-month investigation in which public assistance recipients are alleged to have obtained cash from government-issued electronic benefit transfer cards, which are only to be used to buy approved food staples, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In April 2009, the operators of Billy’s Market in Belle Glade were arrested on theft and fraud charges. That prompted a further investigation, which led to Thursday’s roundup.
Store employees would ring through a transaction that indicated the purchase of food, but then give cash back to the food stamp recipients and keep some for themselves. In most cases, little or no food was bought.
The transaction amounts ranged from $2,000 to more than $14,000, and it is believed the entire scheme cost the federal program an estimated $300,000 over a three-year period.
Sixty-one of those charged are from Palm Beach County; one is from Tampa.
South Florida Business Journal

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