Florida sheriff’s undercover sting busts $2.8M welfare fraud scam

A food stamp fraud scheme that accepted benefits cards that are supposed to help feed poor people was making some people richer by almost $3 million – at taxpayer expense.

foodstamps1218newestThe Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has broken up a ring that used electronic benefit transfer cards – EBTs – to convert payments that should have been used for groceries into cash, with one mom-and-pop store getting a 50 percent mark-up to make the payments.

The scam took the federal government for $2.8 million, television stations reported.

According to WPTV, an NBC affiliate, 24 people were arrested and about 40 more warrants have been issued from the two-year investigation, dubbed “Operation Money Tree” by the sheriff’s office.

According to ABC affiliate WPBF, the ring was centered around the Fajitas Supermarket in Palm Springs.

“On multiple occasions, we would send in an undercover agent and ask for $200 cash,” Palm Beach Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Coleman told reporters during a news conference Monday. “They would charge the benefit card $300 and hand the undercover agent $200 in cash.”

One of those arrested, Carlos Del-Rio, a father of eight in Greenacres who is disabled from a motorcycle accident, told CBS affiliate WPEC that the store would keep $50 of every $100 it would debit his account, and give him the remainder in cash.

He said he used the store to get money to pay bills.

“I did what I did to survive,” he said, in an on-camera interview. “I got caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to do … I wasn’t trying to get over on anybody.”

However, at a news conference, detectives told reporters the supermarket was making EBT payments at a rate that would have been expected for a store three times larger.

The federal government – which has been pushing the use of food stamps since the Obama administration began – should have noticed, Coleman said.

But nobody did notice.

In the Age of Obama, when food stamp use has risen 70 percent in five years, is anyone really surprised?

Check out the WPTV report here.

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About Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at jpjsaunders@gmail.com.

  • John Stuart Mill

    Please press for felonies for all involved, even if they skate on significant prison time.

    Trim those Dem Voter Rolls….

  • binky354

    Kudos to the Sheriff’s Office!

  • wildbillxxxx

    PUT IN THEM IN JAIL AND NEVER CAN THEY RECEIVED FOOD STAMP AGAIN PERIOD.

    • Chico Hinojos

      WHAT OBAMA? HE HAS LIED TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE OVER AND OVER AND OVER,ETC OBAMA NEEDS TO BE IN JAIL TOO”

  • Worc1

    In Massachusetts EBT cards can be used in ATM machines. Earlier this year a Heroin dealer arrested by Boston police called his girlfriend and told her to bring his EBT card to him so he could make bail. But our governor a wannabe Obama claims these stories are just anecdotes. http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2012/04/pols_welfare_abuse_runs_deep

  • Chico Hinojos

    THE PRESIDENT SOLD OBAMACARE ON A LIE,SCAMMED THE AMERICAN PEOPLE,HOW ABOUT THAT NEEDS TO BE PROSECUTED TOO YOU BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES OUT THERE

  • Charles

    Thats O K . The Administration will give the store owner a pat on the back and a noble prize for his efforts to steal monies from the tax payer…