A Memphis investigative team caught welfare fraud on camera, as customers at a local grocery store bought beer and condoms with EBT cars. WREG reports:
REPORTER: With the swipe of an EBT card, those who need help buying groceries get food for their families. But the On Your Side Investigators found obvious abuse. We’re at Food Land on Winchester. This guy says everybody in the neighborhood knows you buy just about anything there—no cash or credit needed. If you don’t have the cash, how do you get to pay for it?
RESIDENT: Well, they use the food stamp card.
REPORTER: The USDA reimburses merchants when customers use the food stamp cards. There are many rules, and the most important: Food stamps are only for food. Look inside Food Land, and you can see “food” isn’t the main offering. We found diapers stacked almost to the ceiling—and the price higher than a typical store. But during three undercover trips inside we found the price isn’t stopping people from buying when they are using your money. We watched as people swiped the cards for diapers, and many other non-food items—even condoms.
PATRON: I want some Magnums.
REPORTER: The cashier goes to get the condoms, rings them up and then the customer heads over to the machine to swipe her food stamp card. Our undercover shopper puts detergent, ramen noodles, and a six-pack of beer on the counter. Our shopper gives the clerk the food stamp card and she swipes it. Here is the catch: We don’t want to break the law, so we intentionally enter the wrong PIN number. A couple of times just to be obvious.
UNDERCOVER SHOPPER: Well, you know what if it doesn’t go through this time, I’m going to go ahead and go.
CLERK: All right.
UNDERCOVER SHOPPER: Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and go. Thank you, though, I’m sorry.
REPORTER: But other customers using food stamp cards had no trouble leaving with detergent, paper towels, toilet tissue, and other items, and paying for them with a card meant to put food on the table. Time for answers.
REPORTER: We have been in here a couple of times and we’ve witnessed people purchasing things—attempt to purchase things with a food stamp card that was not eligible.
CLERK: My boss is coming. You wait for him. He will answer this question.
REPORTER: The boss, Rahim Kajani, never shows, but does talk to me on the phone.
REPORTER: What items are you allowing customers to purchase with their food stamp cards? He denies knowing anything about food stamp trafficking in the store.
STORE OWNER: That should not be happening or supposed to. If it’s happening like that I need to check my cashiers.
REPORTER: We contacted the USDA about what we found. They’re asking us to turn over information to the Inspector General’s office. They say if Food Land or any other merchant is caught trafficking food stamps, they can be kicked out of the program, given a written reprimand, fine, and even be brought up on criminal charges.