Food stamp recipients selling benefits for cash - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

5 INVESTIGATES

Food stamp recipients selling benefits for cash

PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The man in the gold Lexus thought he was meeting a buyer in the parking lot of an east Valley supermarket. He was there to sell food stamps, now known as Nutrition Assistance in Arizona, for 60 cents on the dollar. He said he had $3,000 worth.

"I just swipe the card," the man told an undercover CBS 5 News producer. "We just pretend like we're together. They don't check ID or anything."

Before they made it into the supermarket, CBS 5 Investigates confronted the seller. He said he knew what he was doing was illegal, but his mother needed the cash.

In Arizona, Nutrition Assistance recipients no longer receive the old paper coupons that were used for decades. They are now given what look like credit cards, which can be used for specific food items. The cards cannot be swiped for cash, but that hasn't stopped some recipients from getting creative.

CBS 5 News found people selling their food stamp benefits on Craigslist. The going rate was 50 to 60 cents on the dollar. Most people were selling between $100 and $200 worth of benefits. The man in the Lexus was selling the largest amount.

"Absolutely, it is a crime," said Marcus Hambrick. He is the chief accountability officer at the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Hambrick has a team of investigators whose job it is to identify food stamp fraud and make arrests. He said the tactics constantly change, but was not surprised at what CBS 5 News found.

Hambrick said his investigators rely on their own research, statistical analysis of food assistance card use, as well as tips from people in the community.

Stories like this one are fueling an effort in Congress to cut funding for food stamps by nearly $40 billion. People who legitimately rely on the program worry that they'll lose an irreplaceable tool to put food on the table. Right now, more than 1.1 million people in Arizona receive nutrition assistance.

"It was very beneficial to me. It helped a whole lot," said Dorthea Hogan, who received food stamp benefits for three years while she was unemployed and homeless.

She now has a full-time job, but says she never would have made it through the lean years without food stamps to help feed her family.

"When I didn't have any money, I could go to Circle K and buy food," said Hogan.

Other people purchase food stamps from sellers as a way to make ends meet. One woman agreed to describe the process if CBS 5 News agreed to conceal her identity.

"I give them the money, 50 cents on the dollar, and they give me their PIN number and I go shopping," she said.

"I know it's wrong. And I won't stop, because I have to feed my kids," she said.

[RELATED: Report fraud to AZ Dept. of Economic Security]

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • Inside News Leader 9More>>

  • 3 arrested in undercover food-stamp sting

    3 arrested in undercover food-stamp sting

    (Source: Arizona Attorney General's Office)(Source: Arizona Attorney General's Office)
    Kameel Sweiss, 51, Ameer Sweis, 22, and Faday Sweis, 33, all of whom work at the K&S convenience store at 6166 N. 27th Ave., were arrested by Phoenix SWAT officers Wednesday morning.More >>
    Kameel Sweiss, 51, Ameer Sweis, 22, and Faday Sweis, 33, all of whom work at the K&S convenience store at 6166 N. 27th Ave., were arrested by Phoenix SWAT officers Wednesday morning.More >>
  • CBS 5 InvestigatesMore>>

  • Citizen takes action to solve burglary spree

    Citizen takes action to solve burglary spree

    Thursday, November 16 2017 7:32 PM EST2017-11-17 00:32:56 GMT
    Friday, November 17 2017 1:27 AM EST2017-11-17 06:27:27 GMT

    It was early Monday morning and Chandler Police were responding to a break-in. Someone had stolen some items from a pickup truck. It was Eric Moran's pickup truck, which was parked in his driveway, in his gated community. This wasn't the first time it had happened.

    More >>

    It was early Monday morning and Chandler Police were responding to a break-in. Someone had stolen some items from a pickup truck. It was Eric Moran's pickup truck, which was parked in his driveway, in his gated community. This wasn't the first time it had happened.

    More >>
  • Cigarette black market on the rise

    Cigarette black market on the rise

    Monday, November 13 2017 8:52 PM EST2017-11-14 01:52:05 GMT
    Tuesday, November 14 2017 12:01 AM EST2017-11-14 05:01:17 GMT
    Smugglers are buying cigarettes for cheap and then sneaking them into Mexico or back into the U.S. to sell on the black market. (Source: CBS 5)Smugglers are buying cigarettes for cheap and then sneaking them into Mexico or back into the U.S. to sell on the black market. (Source: CBS 5)

    Mexican drug gangs are using cigarette sales to launder profits from drug and human smuggling, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

    More >>

    Mexican drug gangs are using cigarette sales to launder profits from drug and human smuggling, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office.

    More >>
  • Hate groups using chat rooms to share tips, bomb-making instructions

    Hate groups using chat rooms to share tips, bomb-making instructions

    Thursday, November 9 2017 10:51 PM EST2017-11-10 03:51:52 GMT
    Friday, November 10 2017 12:23 AM EST2017-11-10 05:23:12 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Transcripts from an online chat forum used by white supremacists and neo Nazis indicate these groups are using the Internet to communicate, recruit and share tips, including instructions for making bombs.

    More >>

    Transcripts from an online chat forum used by white supremacists and neo Nazis indicate these groups are using the Internet to communicate, recruit and share tips, including instructions for making bombs.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly