IN CASE YOU MISSED IT….ABC 25 WPBF: “Food stamp trafficking scheme compromises 500 identities in Palm Beach County”
“Food stamp trafficking scheme compromises 500 identities in Palm Beach County”
ABC 25 WPBF West Palm Beach
May 11, 2016
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Customers got more than they bargained for Wednesday afternoon as they watched FBI officials raid various kiosks at the Opa-Locka Flea Market, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office reported.
Palm Beach deputies and numerous representatives of federal, state and local agencies raided kiosks at the flea market as part of a food stamp fraud investigation.
Over 500 victims in Palm Beach County had their identities stolen as part of the scheme. The thieves made illegal EBT cards using the victims’ information, officials said.
The scheme cost the United States Department of Agriculture over $13 million, officials said.
"The flea market retailers, who are alleged to have orchestrated this trafficking scheme, pocketed millions in fees which they charged for converting food assistance benefits into cash," Karen Citizen-Wilcox, special agent in charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture - Office of the Inspector General. "Any retailer who chooses to defraud taxpayers through such trafficking schemes will continue to be aggressively investigated and prosecuted by USDA-OIG and its law enforcement partners."
Investigators said a customer would swipe an EBT card after buying food items for an inflated amount. Afterward, he or she paid the beneficiary a portion of the sale rather than the full amount on the receipt.
The government, in turn, reimbursed the store owner the full price listed on the receipt, even though the customer paid less.
In many cases no food was purchased with an EBT card, officials said.
The investigation involved multiple federal, local and state agencies, including the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Florida Department of Financial Services.
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