Louisiana Strips Food Stamp Fraud Suspects of Benefits
On Monday, Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) stripped six citizens of their food stamp benefits because they took advantage of an October glitch with EBT cards to overspend their monthly allowance. DCFS added that 25 more people were going to be disqualified as well.
On October 11-12, in Springhill and Mansfield, Louisiana, cards indicated they had no spending limits, and more than 12,000 people took advantage to overspend. One woman had an EBT card with a balance of 49 cents but still had $700 worth of goods in her shopping cart.
DCFS is targeting 500 of those people whom they call the “most egregious transgressors.” Those people spent a combined $315,000 over their limits, in transactions ranging from $300 to $2,000.
DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier said, “The investigation and disqualification process is ongoing, and we expect it to result in additional disqualifications.”
DCFS sent letters to the 500 citizens informing them of their disqualifications. Sonnier said that 113 responses have been received, including some that “have ranged from admitting to committing the fraudulent transactions, to declaring no knowledge of the transactions, and to stating that the retailer told the clients it was ‘okay’ to perform the transaction because ‘the government was shut down.’”
Taxpayers aren’t on the hook because DCFS retailers who didn’t follow the outlined emergency process when the electronic system crashes have to ante up. Federal guidelines state that a first offense for abusing the system incurs a one-year suspension, a second offense increases the penalty to two years, and a third offense incurs a permanent disqualification.
The DCFS action came after U.S. Sen. David Vitter criticized the department for being too passive in pursuing the overspending as food stamp fraud, and Treasurer John Kennedy remarked that the department was too lax.