Believe or not, food stamp recipients have traded their benefits with nefarious retailers in exchange for cash they used to buy drugs and weapons.
No! Corruption & fraud in a government run program?
That’s just one of many outrageous examples of abuse in the food stamp program revealed when Phyllis Fong, the Department of Agriculture’s inspector general, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
“In terms of fraud, we have seen many types of trafficking in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits,” she said in prepared remarks.
“By giving a recipient $50 in cash for $100 in benefits, an unscrupulous retailer can make a significant profit. Recipients, of course, are then able to spend the cash however they like.
“In some cases, recipients have exchanged benefits for drugs, weapons, and other contraband.”
“When trafficking occurs unchecked, families do not receive the intended nutritional assistance, and unscrupulous retailers profit at the expense of the American public.”
The latest estimate places the number of food stamp recipients in this fiscal year at about 46.3 million, up from 30.8 million at the beginning of fiscal year 2009. That’s a boon for the economy, don’t you know.
The sale or purchase of food stamp benefits for monetary gain is punishable by disqualification from receiving future benefits, fines, and criminal prosecution, according to CNS News.
However, it came to light in Fong’s testimony that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, does not have a policy to ban food stamp retailers from the program even when they have been convicted of defrauding the government.
Fong said: “‘Suspension and debarment’ is a legal tool that Federal agencies can use to protect programs from repeat abusers and ensure that the Government does business only with responsible parties.
“If FNS (the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service) took steps to debar retailers with a proven record of dishonesty, those individuals would be prevented from abusing other Federal programs.
“However, in a recent audit, we determined that FNS did not debar any of the 615 wholesalers and retailers convicted in relation to 208 cases, even though a conviction is adequate grounds for debarment.”
That’s just great. These companies were not just charged, but convicted and are still able to conduct business as usual.
She also testified that the USDA does not review the criminal background on food stamp retailers and “therefore cannot comply with its own requirement to deny SNAP authorization to any retailers with a criminal history.”
These are the same beuracrats that will control your healthcare soon. Comforting.
In addition, the food stamp program does not even check the Social Security number of many of its recipients, countless of whom are using the numbers of dead people and invalid SSNs to get benefits that Fong said potentially total $1.1 million a month.