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WRGT-TV FOX 45 News :: News - Top Stories - Ohio Joining Feds to Completely Stop Food Stamp Fraud
Tuesday, April 16 2013, 11:16 PM EDT
Ohio Joining Feds to Completely Stop Food Stamp Fraud
MONTGOMERY COUNTY -- An estimated $30 million of your tax dollars is fraudulently used every year on food stamps. Now, the State of Ohio is taking steps to eradicate food stamp fraud all together.

Last year, Montgomery County collected more than $700,000 in food stamp fraud from people and business like Fairborn's Main Express convenience store.

When federal and state agents have to raid a store for food stamp fraud "it can devastate a community and the people that need assistance," said Brent Devery of the Ohio Investigative Unit.

About 2 million Ohioans need that assistance, and they get it. About $3 billion in benefits to be exact. However 1 percent of that is wasted.

"Most of the time when we see food-stamp fraud it's when people are claiming they're not working but they are working," said Kevin Lavoie of Montgomery County Job & Family Services. "Or they claim they have their kids with them and they don't."

It also happens when folks buy non-food items with their food stamp card.

"Our agents have worked undercover and we've purchased all kinds of ineligible products from motor vehicles to drugs to cigarettes, toys clothing," said Devery.

"Sometimes you have vendors perpetrating a fraud where they say you give me cash value and I will give you food stamps," said Lavoie.

And whether it's the business or the individual committing the fraud, it takes it from the people like Amra Harraway who need it the most.

"I got on it because I was a teen mom, pregnant and I still wanted to go to school," said Harraway.

The federal government chose Ohio recently as one of the first four states to team up with to stop fraudulent food stamp use. Their new program will share data between Ohio stores and the USDA to identify suspicious stores for analysis and investigation.

The federal government chose Ohio for two reasons:

1) There are many different organizations in the state working to crack down on fraud

2) The individual counties have their own fraud units. For example, in Montgomery County, Job and Family Services is the one who will decide how many food stamps you qualify for.

"When your use patterns are irregular or you have multiple claims in for replacement cards they need to know that we are looking at that and we are following up with people," said Lavoie.

Montgomery County Job & Family Services says they have removed benefits from about half of the fraudulent users they've found, but they still need your help.

If you see someone using an EBT card illegally, let the MCJ&FS know. One way the feds know a business is possibly breaking the law is if they have a lot of people coming from out of town or out of state to make transactions. And with individuals the most common clue is when people ask for a lot of replacement cards.

Click here to read more about the initiative.

Connect with ABC 22/FOX 45 Reporter Wale Aliyu on Facebook and Twitter.Ohio Joining Feds to Completely Stop Food Stamp Fraud

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