Police arrested 30 people for welfare fraud in Brushton, New York, according to WCAX News, during January and February.
The arrests are a result of a yearlong investigation into the Old Time Butcher Block Store, owned by Dennis Sauve from North Bangor, who was also arrested in connection with the alleged fraud.
NY State Police-Malone said via WPTZ that those arrested were using their food stamp cards in a manner that was against the law.
All allegedly bought alcohol, received cash, and bought other items food stamp recipients are not allowed to buy using a food stamp card, known as the Electronic Benefits Card (EBT). Police charged all defendants with second degree criminal use of a public benefit card, petit larceny, and misuse of food stamps. Though most were released with an appearance ticket, one defendant was held for parole violations, reports WPTZ.
Additionally, Sauve, 45, was arrested on January 16 for his alleged role in perpetrating the welfare frauds. Police charged him with third-degree grand larceny as well as misuse of food stamps. They added it is the second time they arrested Sauve for food stamp fraud.
In New York, third degree grand larceny, according to New York penal law (§ 155.35), via FindLaw, is applied if a person steals property or money worth more than $3,000. A class “D” felony, a third degree grand larceny conviction means from two and one third to 7 years in prison, even for first time offenders.
This type of fraud, called trafficking according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, happens by exchanging food stamps for cash. Trafficking food stamps happens at an extreme “street exchange rate,” which can range anywhere from $.25 to $.50 per dollar, according to WSPA. This means that for every $1 in EBT benefits sold, the recipient gets $.50 to $.75 in cash.
According to Addicting Info, the stigma about this type of welfare abuse or food stamp fraud is that it is unusually high because it is so easy to do.
Addicting Info further reports the following.
“A lot of people buy into this misconception that it is the ‘lazy blacks’ who account for all the fraud and woes of government assistance.”
Each of the 30 people arrested for food stamp fraud in Brushton are Caucasian, according to the report. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, whites make up just over 40 percent of food stamp recipients, while minorities make up the remaining 60 percent, with African-Americans making up only 26 percent of food stamp recipients.
The CBPP also reports that food stamp fraud is at an all-time low, saying that only 1 percent of food stamps are trafficked or otherwise part of a fraud. According to the USDA, the retail stores, not the EBT recipients, commit a majority of the very small amount of food stamp fraud that still exists.
The 30 arrests in Brushton were made as a result of a joint investigation between the USDA, the New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, and the Services Fraud Unit, Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, according to WPTZ.