The SLEB is a partnership between the State of Florida and the Food & Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture established to combat illegal trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamp) benefits. Its purpose is to coordinate and encourage law enforcement and regulatory efforts to attack the problem of food stamp trafficking on the municipal, state and federal levels.
Through the combined efforts of the USDA’s
Food and Nutrition Service and the Florida
Department of Financial Services, the SLEB
provides any member agency critical resources
and data that support their efforts to combat
the problem of food stamp trafficking and
other crime it produces in their jurisdiction. It
coordinates efforts between municipal, State
and Federal investigative agencies to prevent
duplication of effort or overlap while protecting
the integrity of an investigation.
The SLEB also provides member agencies state-issued EBT card(s) with electronic food stamp benefits to be used in covert investigations of stores at which trafficking is suspected.
Targeting data, reports on investigative targets, and technical assistance are part of the investigative support resources the SLEB provides.
For more information,
contact the Division of Public
Assistance Fraud by email at: PAFinquiries@
Division of Public Assistance Fraud 200 E. Gaines Street
Warrants for the arrests of more than 50 people
were issued and the massive criminal round up
began at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. The Manatee
County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the
Bradenton Police Department, Florida Department
of Financial Services, the US Department of
Agriculture and Homeland Security worked
together on the first bust of its kind in the area.
Fifty three people were charged with a total of 78 charges, including social welfare fraud, a 3rd degree felony, and a number of other charges related to narcotics.
In January 2012, undercover officers approached their administration regarding the large numbers of Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) cards they were finding at various residences during drug busts. Officers stated that between three and four to as many as 10 to 15 EBT cards were found at homes that did not belong to those residing in the homes.
An investigation uncovered that drug dealers were purchasing the EBT cards from whom they had been issued, for 50 cents on the dollar or less. In addition to the drug dealers, it also come to light that some area store owners were also finding ways to use the EBT cards to their advantage.
Four people were arrested yesterday in connection
with a scheme to cheat the state out of $1.3
million in food stamps. The four were charged
with Grand Theft and Public Assistance Fraud
following a six-month investigation by the
state’s Public Assistance Fraud unit into illegal
food stamp trafficking at Partners Meat & Fish
Market, located at 1298 NW 62nd Street. Other
investigators from the Florida Department of
Lottery and the Florida Department of Revenue
are looking at additional criminal charges after
a search warrant was served at the small Liberty
Food stamp trafficking is the buying or selling electronic food stamp benefits. Investigators say that store owners pay food stamp recipients about 50 cents in cash for every dollar taken from the electronic food stamp benefit card. The cash received from the sale of food stamps is then used for other things to include jewelry, beauty products or quite possibly drugs.
Additional arrests are likely as the focus shifts to the hundreds of food stamp recipients suspected of selling their food stamps at Partners Meat & Fish Market. Those who are found guilty face a third degree felony charge and a lifetime disqualification to receive food stamps.
In addition to state charges, the store owners may face federal penalties by the USDA for violating food stamp program guidelines. These penalties may include fines, temporary or permanent disqualification, and forfeiture of property.
Becoming a member of SLEB is simple. It only requires signing an agreement to follow the straightforward requirements for the proper control and use of any issued EBT cards and coordinating any investigation of a suspected trafficking store with the SLEB. Periodic reports are also needed by the SLEB in order to report State investigative efforts to FNS.
Time and time again, investigations into
food stamp trafficking have resulted in law
enforcement officials obtaining evidence of
other criminal activities generated by these
stores. Often, investigations into these small
markets and convenience stores find that they
are small criminal enterprises that help fuel
other chronic community problems that plague
local law enforcement.
Law enforcement agencies know where problems exist in their communities. Community markets and convenience stores engaging in multifaceted criminal activities may often be difficult for law enforcement to broach. A food stamp trafficking investigation can be an effective means of getting into a store, stopping the illegal food stamp trafficking and other criminal activity it spawns.
Food stamp trafficking is a felony in Florida, as specified in Chapter 414.39, FS.
After a months long investigation by GPD, USDA
and other agencies a multi store food stamp fraud
has been uncovered in Gainesville.
Three Gainesville convenience stores were busted for food stamp fraud on September 1st and Thursday police issued 31 warrants related to that bust. Police suspect the stores involved were exchanging EBT benefits for cash. They are also looking into the stores for counterfeit merchandise and tobacco and beverage violations.
The USDA estimates food stamp trafficking defrauds taxpayers of $330 million each year. So on the federal and local level investigators are monitoring EBT patterns.
The owners of SMI are accused of using food stamps to stock their shelves, buying people’s EBT benefits for 50 cents on the dollar.
Police are also going after the EBT card holders and the former owner and clerk at 99 Cents and More, also busted in September.
Police arrested 8 people Thursday and will charge two already in jail and two already in prison...but police are still looking for 19 more, including the former owner of 99 cents and More. They will all be charged with racketeering.