Economy
7:02 am
Mon March 19, 2012

Cracking Down On Food Stamp Traffickers

Pennsylvania Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner testified before a congressional panel that the state is trying to end fraud in the welfare system and protect the integrity of the food stamp program.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is examining fraud within the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.

"In this economy when the resources are scarce, Gov. Tom Corbett wants to make sure, and I want to make sure, that the people that are entitled to these benefits … that need food on the table, get it," Faulker said. "If someone's stealing food stamps or trafficking them that means one less person is probably not getting what they need."

Faulkner's office partners with the Department of Welfare and the USDA to prevent welfare fraud and food stamp trafficking. She described food stamp trafficking as exchanging cash, services, alcohol, tobacco or anything other than food for their food stamps.

She said they want to penalize those who abuse the system in order to benefit those who need it.

"The store owner could be disqualified by the USDA [for trafficking]," Faulkner said. "If we learn who the recipients are we will seek that they pay back those benefits and are disqualified from receiving food stamps. There's increased levels of disqualification depending on whether it's your first second or third offense."

In the 2010-11 fiscal year, her office conducted 584 trafficking investigations, resulting in 158 administrative hearings and $258,375 in restitution.

Faulkner said her investigative work often comes from tips or complaints. She encouraged anyone who thinks a vendor might be trafficking food stamps report it through the office's hotline 1-800-932-0582 or online. All reports can made anonymously.