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Newsroom :: Waste Watch  - Waste Watch: Food Stamp Fraud

Waste Watch: Food Stamp Fraud

by Alyssa Spirato

State and federal food assistance programs are meant to help struggling families, but not everyone uses their EBT card the way it's intended.

NewsChannel9 obtained records pointing to some swiping theirs for alcohol and even strip clubs. Most of the transactions are on the up-and up, but others caught our eye.

Ronica Scott is one of the many Chattanooga residents who relies on government assistance. She says she's been on food stamps for the past 7 years.

"That's how my children eat from day to day. So I need it, I use mine the right way," says Scott.

An advocacy group, Tennessee Watchdog, gave us state reports documenting every EBT transaction in June. One business on the list was the Chattanooga Convention Center. The report claims three transactions in June totaling about $230. Executive Director Mike Shuford says according to his records, they were a lobby ATM.

"We don't monitor our ATM machine. You know, you can walk up and we assume, we have cameras on it, but we don't look at what kind of card is being put into the machine," says Shuford.

The Honest Pint restaurant and bar also made it onto the list. The records show a transaction for $22.50 on June 5th.

It's a problem state officials are well aware of, and working to fix. There's one current snag. There's no way to track the cash once it's taken out. But thanks to a new law enacted in February, new regulations will be put in place.

"We can't prove because someone cashes their EBT Card at an ATM machine in a liquor store, that they are buying it for liquor. However, the new federal regulation is going to prohibit the use of EBT cards being cashed in liquor stores and adult entertainment," says Wanda Franklin, with Families First.

As for Ronica Scott, she feels the responsibility lies in the hands of the user.

"It give the people that's using it the right way, it give us a bad name," says Scott.

Now while the new regulation will prohibit ATM transactions in liquor stores and adult-oriented establishments, it won't put a stop to transactions at malls or hotels.

Franklin says they hope to have the new regulation put in place very soon.

Waste Watch: Food Stamp Fraud

Sunday, August 4 2013, 12:11 PM EDT


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