The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office is teaming with the state Inspector General against a form of welfare fraud that involves store merchants paying cash for government-assistance benefits.
Specifically, officials are seeing holders of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits cards selling them to store merchants for “pennies on the dollar,” according to Inspector General Bruce Beemer.
That is welfare fraud because the cards are only to be used to purchase food.
At a press event Wednesday in Lancaster, officials said the fraud “takes food off the table” from those for which the benefits are intended.
The Inspector General is spearheading an initiative that will soon be implemented in Lancaster County, with District Attorney Stedman providing the enforcement arm by targeting the store owners paying cash for cards.
Undercover tactics will be used to find offenders, who will face criminal prosecution.
Pa. Senator Ryan Aument and Rep. Mindy Fee, who teamed on legislation, joined Beemer and Stedman at Wednesday’s press event.
Sen. Aument and Rep. Fee led a legislative effort to create the Office of Inspector General in Pennsylvania – which the Governor signed into law last year.
Sen. Aument said Wednesday they are “taking seriously our obligation to find and eradicate” welfare fraud.
District Attorney Stedman pointed to the drug epidemic as a motive for cardholders trading for cash.
“Instead of using that (card) for food for them or their children, they are trading it for pennies on the dollars, with the merchants getting the benefit of that,” District Attorney Stedman said. “Everyone is losing in Pennsylvania as a result of that.”
Assistant District Attorney Lance Greene, who prosecutes welfare fraud locally, said he dealt with about 100 such cases last year. That caseload should increase with this proactive initiative.
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