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Food stamp fraud

Food stamp opportunists who raided Walmart during EBT glitch to be cut off from program

Saturday, November 16, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: food stamp fraud, EBT glitch, Walmart raid

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(NaturalNews) The ruthless hordes of food stamp recipients that went wild last month during a major glitch in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program could end up getting cut off from the program forever, claim new reports. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently announced that everyone who participated in fraud in his state by raiding stores and going on out-of-control shopping sprees will soon receive letters notifying them of either a temporary or permanent loss of benefits.

As you may recall, a number of Walmart stores and other retailers throughout Louisiana were ransacked back in October when the federal EBT database suddenly went offline, registering the equivalent of unlimited balances on people's cards. Enticed by the prospect of having no spending limits, thousands of EBT cardholders who discovered the glitch early decided to take full advantage of it, ransacking stores and filling up their carts with the most expensive food products they could find.

Many of these looters made off with the stolen goods in their carts, as checkers at some stores rang them up even though the system was down, trusting that they had enough credit on their EBT cards to cover the costs. But now that officials have had the chance to go back and review these purchases, there is clear evidence that many of the looters were simply there to steal as much as possible.

"More than 12,000 people were sent an insufficient funds notice when the problem with the EBT cards was fixed on October 12," writes William Bigelow for Breitbart.com. "[T]hose who transgressed may lose their EBT cards for a year."

The glitch was not limited to just Louisiana, as at least 17 states reportedly had problems with their EBT card systems during the same time. But Louisiana is among the first to actually hold its offending EBT cardholders accountable for both fraud and attempted fraud, even indicating that it plans to cut some people's benefits off for good.

"We must protect the program for those who receive and use their benefits appropriately according to the law," stated Suzy Sonnier, the secretary of state at the Department of Children and Family Services, in a recent statement. "We are looking at each case individually, addressing those recipients who are suspected of misrepresenting their eligibility for benefits or defrauding the system."

Walmart declines to participate in investigation against EBT cardholders who committed fraud

Walmart and other defrauded retailers also have the opportunity to join in and prosecute those that raided their stores. However, NOLA.com reports that police in the two cities where a bulk of the fraud took place, Springhill and Mansfield, will not address the fraudulent food stamp purchases unless asked to by these retailers.

"Walmart has not contacted our office at all," stated Gary Hobbs, assistant chief of police for the city of Mansfield, which is located in DeSoto Parish, noting that his department would immediately jump on the case if Walmart decides to file a complaint.

One possible reason for Walmart's silence on the matter could have to do with the fact that the retailer failed to follow proper protocol during the outage. Xerox, the contractor in charge of EBT cards, reportedly has an emergency backup plan in place that allows retailers to call up the company and authorize isolated purchases of up to $50 per recipient during an EBT outage. But stores in the affected areas apparently did not follow this protocol.

"The issue has been resolved and it had no material impact on our U.S. business," stated Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling, who refused to comment about whether or not her company would take action against EBT cardholders who committed fraud at its stores.

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