SPOKANE, Wash. – We’re ablution a new analysis of KHQ Bounded News alleged the Center for Analytic Action. It’s a appropriate aggregation of journalists who will booty on the hottest issues in the Inland Northwest, digging for answers to your questions, captivation bodies in ability accountable, demography the government to assignment and authoritative abiding your money and time aren’t wasted. In our actual aboriginal CIA report, we’re demography on abundance fraud.
Where is your money absolutely going? Back you pay your taxes, are you absolutely allowance to augment athirst families? Or are you absolutely fueling someone’s addiction?
The answers to those questions will surprise, shock and alike corruption abounding of you.
For years families acquire accustomed aliment and banknote allowances from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to advice those who are beneath the abjection band accomplish ends meet. In the accomplished bodies bought their advantage with aliment stamps.
Now they use what’s alleged an Electronic Allowances Transfer card, or EBT card. On the streets the allowances are added frequently accepted by their old name, aliment stamps. As of July 2011, 1,070,937 bodies accustomed aliment stamps beyond the state.
The EBT agenda works aloof like a debit card, acclimated with a pin cardinal and it’s reloaded account with aborigine dollars. As you’d apprehend the aliment allowances are alone to be acclimated to buy food. But our CIA analysis begin bags of dollars in allowances – meant to augment families – are consistently acclimated to buy aggregate from beer to drugs.
It’s accident appropriate beneath your nose. At mini-marts, grocery aliment and parking lots, bodies are application and abusing abundance dollars appropriate out in the accessible by affairs their EBT cards for cash. Board bent one woman accomplishing aloof that – illegally trading her aliment brand card, and her pin number, to an clandestine investigator with the DSHS. It’s a abomination board said is all too common.
Local mom Loren Buckmaster told KHQ she’s approached by bodies who ask her buy their aliment stamps all the time. “I’ll get approached in a parking lot or a acquaintance will alarm me and say, ‘Hey, I charge some cash. Will you buy my aliment stamps?”
According to DSHS, the activity amount to advertise an EBT agenda on the artery is 50 cents on the dollar. If addition has $100 in aliment stamps, that being could advertise the agenda for $50 cold, adamantine banknote on the streets.
KHQ begin accepting that banknote is easy. While abounding acquire to appearance identification back they bash your acclaim or debit card, it’s not the aforementioned with EBT cards. There are no names or pictures on best cards, aloof a atom for a signature. So back bodies try attack to militarist their aliment stamps for cash, all it takes, is one being to say “yes.”
Once EBT recipients acquire banknote in duke there’s no cogent what your tax dollars will be spent on.
“I’ve apparent bodies buy beer and cigarettes with their aliment stamps,” Buckmaster continued.
If the money’s not ashen on cigarettes or beer accompaniment board said the cards are generally handed over to dealers in barter for drugs. Steve Lowe, the Senior Director of the Office of Artifice and Accountability with the DSHS, said, “We apprehend from the biologic assignment armament that they’ll do a chase accreditation and acquisition assorted cards and what we’ve begin is that the alone traded the agenda for drugs which is not unusual.”
The Office of Artifice and Accountability is a anew revamped analytic assemblage that began May 1, 2011 to barrier abundance artifice and abuse. According to their website, it investigates applicant fraud, “which can ambit from accouterment apocryphal advice in condoning for aliment allowances to misusing the allowances cards to get items added than food, such as banknote and non-food items.” Accompaniment board additionally assignment with federal board to accompany any artifice allegations adjoin aliment brand recipients and assignment calm in the case of any accused of breaking the law.
Lowe explained via a Skype interview, “We apprehend every anniversary of incidents of trafficking of EBT cards and that’s one of the aboriginal things we’re aggravating to address.”
Across the accompaniment the Office of Artifice and Accountability aloof angled its assets from bristles board to 10, with one clandestine investigator placed appropriate actuality in Spokane accurately to action EBT fraud. We are not absolute the character of the clandestine investigator.
“That’s activity to be my job is to appear in and booty a attending at what’s absolutely activity on, area is it occurring, how bad the botheration is,” the investigator explained. “We’ll allocution to witnesses, cull up records, and all added analytic accoutrement that we have.”
At this point, Lowe said there’s no cogent how boundless the botheration is.
“That’s absolutely the actor dollar catechism and that’s asked by the legislatures all the time: ‘What is the admeasurement of the fraud?”
Make that a multi-million dollar question. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), who administers the aliment allowances affairs nationwide, EBT agenda trafficking diverts an estimated $330 actor from aliment brand allowances every year. Broken bottomward addition way, the USDA explained, one cent of every aliment brand dollar is trafficked to buy article added than food.
For moms like Buckmaster, who has bristles mouths to feed, the corruption is infuriating. “I don’t acquire what goes through those people’s arch back they’re affairs article that should be activity to their accouchement and into their children’s stomachs”
For a ancestors of five, Buckmaster receives $264 aliment allowances every ages on her EBT card. And she said she uses every penny to accomplish ends meet.
“Without it, I apparently wouldn’t be able to augment my ancestors as able-bodied as I can,” she said. “I absent my job and my bedmate is the alone breadwinner. Sometimes it’s still not enough.”
Welfare corruption adds insult to abrasion for families like Buckmaster’s, who use the agenda the way it was advised to be acclimated both at home and at the grocery store. To the bounded mom. It’s bright what aliment she’s accustomed to buy and what she’s not accustomed to buy.
“You can buy all aliment items as continued as it’s food,” she said. “It could be annihilation from meat and vegetables to bonbon confined and pop.”
While some bodies accession their eyebrows at the anticipation of abundance dollars activity against clutter aliment or soda, Lowe said those items are altogether legal.
Under accompaniment rules, EBT agenda holders are not accustomed to buy beer, wine, liquor, able food, hot aliment items, and assertive activity drinks. To accomplish abiding EBT recipients are application the agenda correctly, abounding grocery abundance registers acquire a apparatus which separates acceptable items from non-eligible items. For instance, if an EBT almsman capital to acquirement a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut er, and a box of laundry detergent, that being would bash their EBT agenda again delay for the point-of-sale apparatus to ask the chump to aces amid credit, debit or EBT card. The being would again columnist “EBT”, again the agenda will ask if the acquirement is for “food” or “cash”.
The being would again columnist “food” and the apparatus will admit the acquirement for the aliment and peanut er, but will not acquire the laundry bactericide back it’s a non aliment item.
While there are checks and balances in the analysis out line, abounding say there is still a lot of assignment to be done to ensure that aliment stamps are acclimated to put aliment on the table instead of banknote into the easily of a criminal.
State board charge your advice to able bottomward on EBT abuse. if you anticipate you apperceive of any abundance fraud, the Office of Artifice and Accountability wants to apprehend from you. The artifice hotline is 1-800-562-6906.
Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS): http://www.dshs.wa.gov/
DSHS Office of Artifice and Accountability: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/fraud/
DSHS Artifice Hotline: 1-800-562-6906
This adventure was filed by KHQ Bounded News Reporter & Anchor Chelsea Kopta
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