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Thread: EBT Fraud

  1. #1
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    Default EBT Fraud

    Police on the hunt for EBT fraud raided five Brockton, MA stores today and busted eight people — including one store clerk caught with cash in hand — in what authorities said were long-running scams to cheat the state by trading food stamps for money and in some cases, using EBT cards to buy discounted groceries that they sold at marked-up prices.

    As part of a wide-ranging, six-month probe, undercover officers assigned to Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz’s office posed as customers at several Brockton stores, where they handed over EBT cards to store clerks, who would then swipe the cards, enter fake information and pocket the extra cash.

    Authorities charged each of the five businesses as corporations and got arrest warrants for nine people, eight of whom who were picked up as of this afternoon.

    Abu Osman, 33, owner of the Montello Street shop, B&D Mart; Djovany Pierre, 49, owner of J.P. Communications on Montello Street; and Dominic Saintus, 41, owner of Dip N’ Sip on North Main Street, each face a variety of charges, including larceny and trafficking food stamps.

    Osman, who faces eight different counts, was also charged with access device and procurement fraud.

    Another, Marie Pierre — a clerk at J.P. Communications and Djovany Pierre’s sister — faces four charges of larceny and fraud, including for a transaction authorities said she was conducting as police executed their search warrant this morning.

    Also charged were Jeff Cicerano, 53, and Orlando Andrade, 47, of Rice’s Market on North Main Street, and Felix Rodriguez, 42, and Daniel Dieu, 50, of Dip N’ Sip, also on North Main.

    The name of the ninth person, who was not in custody, was not released.

    “This investigation reveals that store owners, employees and food stamp recipients engaged in a scheme to unlawfully exchange food stamps for cash,” Cruz said in a statement. “Today’s arrests should send a strong message that this type of fraud on taxpayers will not be tolerated.”

    Starting in May, the undercover troopers went to each of the stores on different days, where they’d give the EBT cards to store clerks. In some cases, authorities say, the clerks would punch in fake transactions, splitting the amount in cash with the customer. For example, if a customer wanted $60, the clerk would ring in $120 worth of a fake grocery order and give the customer half back in cash. The store’s EBT account then would be credited for the $120 purchase, giving the store a $60 profit, authorities said.

    In other cases, the clerk would take an undercover officer’s EBT card, use it to buy groceries at a “discount store” and give the officer half of what they charged to the card in cash, authorities said. The clerk would then stock the store with the cheaper products but at marked-up prices to turn a profit.

    Each of the stores were also charged as corporations on counts trafficking food stamps over $250, according to the DA’s office.

    The defendants were expected to be arraigned today in Brockton District Court. Police say they are still searching for the other suspects.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
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    MERIDEN, CT - Debit cards are given to less fortunate families in Connecticut by state officials to help them purchase food, but Eyewitness News learned that some people were using the cards at strip clubs, casinos and tobacco shops.

    Sarah Tresselt of Meriden is enrolled in a program called EBT cards that allow cash withdrawals at any ATM. She said her state benefits are her lifeline.

    "I'm a single mom. I don't receive child support. It's just me and my son. You know, I work full-time," Tresselt said. "I don't make that much so the money that I get for food. I usually stock up on my meats and vegetables and stuff. And now I'm behind on all my bills because I had to take that cash out of my pocket."

    Because of confusion at the Connecticut Department of Social Services, Tresselt said the department sent a notice that stated she needed to prove she deserved to keep receiving the benefits.

    Tresselt said she sent the information the department requested, but got a letter saying her food assistance and health insurance were being cut off.

    She called and called but got nowhere with the state of Connecticut.

    "Nobody would pick up," Tresselt said. "I was on hold four different times for 20 minutes apiece."

    Fortunately, Tresselt's story has a happy ending, because her benefits were restored a bit more than a week ago.

    "I called and told them, ya know, Channel 3 On Your Side for help, and within an hour I had three people call me back," Tresselt said.

    Tresselt told the Eyewitness News I-Team that she relies on the EBT cards, which allows people to receive their benefits through a debit card. It's a program that the Eyewitness News I-Team has been investigating for some time.

    At regular intervals, the state refills the card balance and then the money can be spent for necessities such as food or baby formula. Because it's a debit card, cash can also be withdrawn from any ATM.

    So the Eyewitness News I-Team asked the state for a list of every ATM that was used in the third quarter of 2011. We spent hours combing through the data, and what we found was startling.

    Among the thousands and thousands of withdrawals we reviewed was one at Club Chez, which is a bar and club in Hartford's south end that advertises specifically to gay customers. Someone went there and used their state benefits debit card to make a withdrawal at the bar.

    People also used the card at smoke shops across the state to withdraw cash. Someone used their card at the Gold Club in Hartford, the Rockstar Gentlemen's Lounge in Wolcott and the Mardi Gras in East Windsor.

    That's three strip clubs where the Eyewitness News I-Team found withdrawals of taxpayer funded financial assistance. And that's just in the three months of records that we reviewed.

    We also found withdrawals at an ATM in a pawn shop in Waterbury as well as Flats Tattooing Ink in Groton and at New Britain Rock Cats Stadium where the minor league team plays. State benefits were accessed at Foxwoods Casino and at a bar at the Mohegan Sun.

    "I looked at the same sample, and we found a very tiny, tiny minority of ATM machines being used that the public might deem questionable," said David Dearborn, who is the spokesman for Connecticut Department of Social Services.

    There were 5,156 ATMs used by the 36,000-plus households that get these state debit cards. Eyewitness News I-Team's review of the records showed withdrawals at 53 locations that were questionable, which is about 1 percent.

    Still, each of those 53 withdrawals, Connecticut taxpayer dollars that were designated for the needy, were being withdrawn at a place such as a strip club or a tattoo shop.

    However, the Connecticut Department of Social Services said it's all perfectly legal.

    "Right now, there's no laws or regulations saying where a cash or benefit assistance recipient can withdraw their benefits," Dearborn said. "The vast, vast majority are using appropriate locations, and there's no proof for example that someone who uses a cigar shop ATM is spending $20 on cigars, sometimes in a neighborhood there may not be an ATM machine that's handy. It doesn't look the greatest and the appearance is important to us, but currently there's no laws that we can utilize that would have us check that."

    And without laws, there's no way for the Connecticut Department of Social Services can demand answers when someone uses an ATM at the Mardi Gras strip club in East Windsor, for example, when there's a bank ATM right across the street.

    With her electric bill overdue, her pantry bare and her bank account empty, Tresselt said the questionable locations the Eyewitness News I-Team uncovered make her angry.

    "It upsets me. I mean, I do my best to support my son on my own. But, ya know, it's nearly impossible," she said. "Just look at three months without me having it (EBT cards program), I ended up behind on my electric bill and stuff like that because I have to feed my son. That's my main priority - is taking care of my son. So that's why I think there is a lot of problems and there isn't a lot of money because of people like that, abusing the system."

    Unless a new state law is passed, the Connecticut Department of Social Services said there's nothing they can do right now, but there is at least some change coming.

    A federal law will require the Connecticut Department of Social Services to stop withdrawals at liquor stores, gambling establishments and adult entertainment bars by 2014, or the state will lose grant money from the federal government.

    The Connecticut Department of Social Services said it plans to do it. However, the department is still figuring out how the limits would work.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  3. #3
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    Who’s Livin’ Large In Deval’s Massachusetts? DEAD People!

    Fed-up Democrats called on the scandal-plagued Department of Transitional Assistance to get “out of the Stone Age and into the computer age” after a scathing audit yesterday revealed that millions were paid to more than 1,100 dead people — and millions more to live recipients collecting EBT benefits from Florida and Las Vegas to the Virgin Islands.

    State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump also reported that welfare recipients were cashing out their EBT cards in one day, using two Social Security numbers to double up on payouts and seeking replacement cards at alarming rates.

    The audit follows a series of blistering Herald reports that has left the DTA desperately trying to show it’s turning the corner. The Herald articles covered overpayments to food stamps recipients by $27 million, and a $3.4 million overtime tab to fix the glitch.

    As usual, Gov. Patrick has no comment. He continues to oppose EBT reform and insist–despite the fact that more EBT cards are “lost” each year than driver’s licenses (there are 7 times more DLs than EBT cards)–that we don’t need major changes like photos on EBT cards. Gov. Patrick says the people who’ve been demanding reforms are the bad guys.

    “This audit exposes the gross lack of oversight within DTA. We need to change the culture of waste, fraud and abuse,” said state Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, who is also probing welfare payments made to slain Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his family. “We need to bring the DTA out of the Stone Age and into the computer age.”

    The 66-page audit has ratcheted up the pressure on the embattled agency and lawmakers to make good on long-promised reforms — including photos on EBT cards.

    “Something should be done now,” state Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston) said of House-passed reforms that were gutted last week from the Senate budget. “What we passed in the House was fair. I would want more. The audit reinforces that it must change, and it must change now.”

    A spokeswoman for Gov. Deval Patrick, who was at his estate in the Berkshires yesterday, declined comment and deferred all questions to the DTA.

    “It’s painful,” Bump said of the findings. “I do appreciate that they had rapidly expanding caseloads because of the recession, but our point is this is supposed to be systematic and work automatically, and it’s got to be maintained as a priority.”

    Among the audit’s findings:

    • Nearly $2.4 million in benefits were paid to people who had been dead for anywhere from six to 27 months.

    • $120,000 was paid out to 42 of the departed, benefits that “began after the recipients’ date of death.”

    • More than $27 million in benefits were accessed out of state in a six-month period, including $4.5 million in such far-flung states as Florida, the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. Top cities where public money was drawn via EBT cards included Orlando, Myrtle Beach and Las Vegas.

    •  Over a six-year period ending in 2012, DTA reissued more than 147,000 replacement cards to 9,846 people, an average of 14 per person. Among those, 358 people were issued 30 or more cards, and one was issued 127.

    • In fiscal year 2012 alone, 42 percent of all the 859,000 active cards were reissued.

    A separate inspector general report found $25 million in EBT money went to recipients who may not have been eligible. And a Herald review found that DTA couldn’t locate tens of thousands of EBT recipients.

    DTA Interim Commissioner Stacey Monahan defended the agency, saying the 100-day plan she put in place less than two months ago addresses several of the problems identified.

    Still, state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) called it “absolutely stunning” that DTA has “all these tools available to them, and we know they’re not doing their jobs.”
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

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    Quote Originally Posted by voivod View Post
    MERIDEN, CT - Debit cards are given to less fortunate families in Connecticut by state officials to help them purchase food, but Eyewitness News learned that some people were using the cards at strip clubs, casinos and tobacco shops.

    Sarah Tresselt of Meriden is enrolled in a program called EBT cards that allow cash withdrawals at any ATM. She said her state benefits are her lifeline.

    "I'm a single mom. I don't receive child support. It's just me and my son. You know, I work full-time," Tresselt said. "I don't make that much so the money that I get for food. I usually stock up on my meats and vegetables and stuff. And now I'm behind on all my bills because I had to take that cash out of my pocket."

    Because of confusion at the Connecticut Department of Social Services, Tresselt said the department sent a notice that stated she needed to prove she deserved to keep receiving the benefits.

    Tresselt said she sent the information the department requested, but got a letter saying her food assistance and health insurance were being cut off.

    She called and called but got nowhere with the state of Connecticut.

    "Nobody would pick up," Tresselt said. "I was on hold four different times for 20 minutes apiece."

    Fortunately, Tresselt's story has a happy ending, because her benefits were restored a bit more than a week ago.

    "I called and told them, ya know, Channel 3 On Your Side for help, and within an hour I had three people call me back," Tresselt said.

    Tresselt told the Eyewitness News I-Team that she relies on the EBT cards, which allows people to receive their benefits through a debit card. It's a program that the Eyewitness News I-Team has been investigating for some time.

    At regular intervals, the state refills the card balance and then the money can be spent for necessities such as food or baby formula. Because it's a debit card, cash can also be withdrawn from any ATM.

    So the Eyewitness News I-Team asked the state for a list of every ATM that was used in the third quarter of 2011. We spent hours combing through the data, and what we found was startling.

    Among the thousands and thousands of withdrawals we reviewed was one at Club Chez, which is a bar and club in Hartford's south end that advertises specifically to gay customers. Someone went there and used their state benefits debit card to make a withdrawal at the bar.

    People also used the card at smoke shops across the state to withdraw cash. Someone used their card at the Gold Club in Hartford, the Rockstar Gentlemen's Lounge in Wolcott and the Mardi Gras in East Windsor.

    That's three strip clubs where the Eyewitness News I-Team found withdrawals of taxpayer funded financial assistance. And that's just in the three months of records that we reviewed.

    We also found withdrawals at an ATM in a pawn shop in Waterbury as well as Flats Tattooing Ink in Groton and at New Britain Rock Cats Stadium where the minor league team plays. State benefits were accessed at Foxwoods Casino and at a bar at the Mohegan Sun.

    "I looked at the same sample, and we found a very tiny, tiny minority of ATM machines being used that the public might deem questionable," said David Dearborn, who is the spokesman for Connecticut Department of Social Services.

    There were 5,156 ATMs used by the 36,000-plus households that get these state debit cards. Eyewitness News I-Team's review of the records showed withdrawals at 53 locations that were questionable, which is about 1 percent.

    Still, each of those 53 withdrawals, Connecticut taxpayer dollars that were designated for the needy, were being withdrawn at a place such as a strip club or a tattoo shop.

    However, the Connecticut Department of Social Services said it's all perfectly legal.

    "Right now, there's no laws or regulations saying where a cash or benefit assistance recipient can withdraw their benefits," Dearborn said. "The vast, vast majority are using appropriate locations, and there's no proof for example that someone who uses a cigar shop ATM is spending $20 on cigars, sometimes in a neighborhood there may not be an ATM machine that's handy. It doesn't look the greatest and the appearance is important to us, but currently there's no laws that we can utilize that would have us check that."

    And without laws, there's no way for the Connecticut Department of Social Services can demand answers when someone uses an ATM at the Mardi Gras strip club in East Windsor, for example, when there's a bank ATM right across the street.

    With her electric bill overdue, her pantry bare and her bank account empty, Tresselt said the questionable locations the Eyewitness News I-Team uncovered make her angry.

    "It upsets me. I mean, I do my best to support my son on my own. But, ya know, it's nearly impossible," she said. "Just look at three months without me having it (EBT cards program), I ended up behind on my electric bill and stuff like that because I have to feed my son. That's my main priority - is taking care of my son. So that's why I think there is a lot of problems and there isn't a lot of money because of people like that, abusing the system."

    Unless a new state law is passed, the Connecticut Department of Social Services said there's nothing they can do right now, but there is at least some change coming.

    A federal law will require the Connecticut Department of Social Services to stop withdrawals at liquor stores, gambling establishments and adult entertainment bars by 2014, or the state will lose grant money from the federal government.

    The Connecticut Department of Social Services said it plans to do it. However, the department is still figuring out how the limits would work.
    As a taxpayer in CT, I hope something is done about the miss-use of these cards.
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    Mary had a little lamb
    For which she paid a tax.
    Her lazy worthless neighbor said;
    “It’s unfair, the code is just too lax!”
    So Mary paid, and paid some more,
    While her lazy worthless neighbor said;
    “Make her pay some more!”
    “I want more stuff, and work’s too hard,
    Take it from her and fill my EBT card.”
    So Mary worked, and Mary slaved;
    While the government took all she saved.
    They spread her wealth to everyone,
    And when the wolves came, they took her gun.
    “We’re being fair, we’re doing right.”
    Came their mocking laughter in the night.
    So Mary sat, and Mary thought;
    “This evil surely must be fought!”
    She sold her sheep, she burned her farm,
    She took what little she had,
    and moved somewhere warm.
    “They spread my wealth, but not my work,
    They gave what I earned to some lazy jerk.
    How is that fair?
    How is that right?
    America, God Bless You;
    It is time to FIGHT!”
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  6. #6
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    They’re on the dole — and watching the pole.

    Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs — where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers, a Post investigation found.

    A database of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request, showed welfare recipients using their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/p...nvj2RwpsEDS7MN
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

 

 

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