EBT Abuse: The Cash-for-Drunkards Program

From New York to New Mexico and across the dependent plains, welfare recipients are getting sauced on the public dime. Drunk, besotted, bombed. But while politicians pay lip service to cutting government waste, fraud and abuse, they’re doing very little in practice to stop the EBT party excesses. Where’s the compassion for taxpayers?

You see the signs everywhere: “We accept EBT.” Fast-food restaurants do. Clothing retailers do. Auto repair shops, liquor stores and even sushi joints are joining the club. “EBT” stands for the federal government’s electronic benefits transfer card, which is intended to provide poor people with food stamps and cash assistance for basic necessities. The two separate programs were combined into one ATM-like card designed to reduce the “stigma” attached to Nanny State dependency, and — voila! — an entirely new method of mooching was born.

If the idea was to eliminate the embarrassment of life on the dole, the social justice crowd succeeded phenomenally. Last weekend, the New York Post blew the lid off scammers who brazenly swiped their EBT cards “inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.” Out: Cash for clunkers. In: Cash for drunkards!

My home state of Colorado has seen similar abuse. Last year, local TV station 9NEWS reported that more than $40,000 was withdrawn from ATMs in metro-area liquor stores despite prohibitions against such spending. Colorado EBT users also splurged at Denver’s Elitch Gardens amusement part, Disneyland, Universal Studios in Los Angeles and on the Las Vegas strip.

In New Mexico, Jim Scarantino of Watchdog.org reported that in just a three-month period, EBT cards were used at multiple liquor stores, girly bars, smoke shops and casinos both inside and outside the state.

Californians are notorious EBT fraud artists; some $70 million in EBT funds were withdrawn from outside the state’s borders over the past several years, including nearly $12 million taken out in Las Vegas. Watchdog.org kept tabs on government workers in Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin nabbed in EBT fraud rings and schemes.

Several state legislatures have barred EBT spending on these vices, along with tattoo parlors, lottery tickets and cigarettes. Last February, President Obama signed GOP-backed welfare reform measures into law aimed at closing the so-called “strip club loophole” and preventing welfare recipients from blowing their cash benefits on booze, porn and gambling. But that law doesn’t go into effect until next year. And many politicians are just shrugging their shoulders, muttering “Whaddya gonna do?”

Here’s a radical idea: How about making taxpayer protection a priority for once and, yes, getting serious about strengthening the stigma on bottomless entitlement dependency and entitlement abuse?

According to the Department of Agriculture, illegal food stamp use costs the public upward of $750 million a year. A report by the Government Accountability Institute last fall revealed that “few security measures are in place to monitor EBT card fraud. … Nationwide, the USDA has approximately 100 investigators policing over 200,000 authorized EBT retailers.” In Florida, the report noted, 63 investigators carry the burden of policing more than three million EBT users.

Excuse-makers for the welfare-takers emphasize that both eligibility fraud and EBT card trafficking fraud are minuscule. But a bottle here, a case there, a pole dance here, a lap dance there, and soon it all starts to add up. With food stamp rolls exploding under both Republican and Democratic administrations while enforcement resources shrink nationwide, EBT has taken on a whole new meaning: Exploitation of Broke Taxpayers. Shame.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Whether one calls themselves progressive, leftist, liberal or another moniker, the fact of the matter is that the Dem Party is tailor-made to destroy America, either via drunkards or other shiftless Americans. Illegals too.

    The fact of the matter is that deconstructing the economy is a bulwark to "transforming" America, and the fleecing of taxpayers is the only way to get from here to there.

    Therefore, Americans are witnessing a fiscal cliff nightmare, in tandem with the evisceration of the Constitution, grabbing for guns and other freedoms in the process.

    And if one wants to know where all this is headed, aside from the nightmare outline above, look no further – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/01/07/fiddling-with

    A tyranny in the making. Drunkards are a kind way to describe them!

    Adina kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • http://www.infosafe.fr coffre-fort

      I fully agree

  • slider 96

    Well WHERE are the politicians RIGHT AND LEFT ? The so called "lawmakers " in Washington can put an end to this , but they cant even seem to agree on what gay it is ?
    And while they're at it , hows about Medicare and Medicaid Fraud ????
    How come the Republican Governor of Florida ,was CEO of a Company convicted of MASSIVE MEDICARE FRAUD ??? Yt he was endorsed by the RNC and elected !
    Simple laws can prevent this abuse , but this 112th Congress was , and will be known as ;'the do nothing Congress ".
    The FACT of the matter AdinaK is that this is not a Democratic problem , it involves BOTH sides of the isle . Even the totally partisan biased Michelle Malkin has admitted as much .

  • JacksonPearson

    Congress can easily place limits on what E.B.T. cards can or cannot purchase.
    e.g., Limit buying to staples, such as quantities of: rice beans, bread, cheese, and milk…STOP
    It's a grub stake and not party time.

  • pierce

    It would be acceptable for EBT cards be used for what they were intended, i.e. food, and others of lives necessities, but merchants, some, but not all, have found ways to circumvent the intended use. So now those EBT are being used to buy beer, wine, liquor, and even lottery tickets, and scratch offs. Super Markets, and Big Box Stores can not afford to get caught, or may be they can, but there should be a thorough investigation into the various abuses. Honest hard working people are being put in awkward positions, for they don't want to expose their neighbors dishonesty, but when you look at what government is doing, allowing this to happen, maybe we have to. Our Government is saying it is okay to be dishonest.

    • slider 96

      The government is not saying it's ok , the government is saying it does not have the will or where-with-all to prevent fraud ….and that comes down again to legislation . The same holds true for Medicare and Medicaid ….it's a disgrace . People do not police themselves , our politicians are proof enough for that . Not to mention duplication of services and waste . There should be a national database for all government dispensed services , this is the age of computers , and if your credit score can be tracked with fairely good accuracy , why not Medicare , Medicaid and food stamp accounts ? The V.A. does a fair job of it , if you live on the East6 Coast and have to see a doctor while on the west coast , the V.A. has your medical records at their fingertips , and its accurate .

      • reader

        "if your credit score can be tracked with fairely good accuracy , why not Medicare , Medicaid and food stamp accounts"

        Duh. Because credit scores are tracked by the banks in order to invest the banks own funds. While the government programs are administered by bureaucrats with tax payers’ funds. No computer will ever solve this conundrum.

        • slider 96

          DUH….how come it works with the V.A. , Social Security [ those little notices you start getting at about age 50that list each years gross income], The "conundrum " is between your brain and the reality of modern technology .

          • reader

            Actually, nobody with a functioning brain will trade private hospital for VA without dire need. As for Social Security, its trustees – not me – said that it is going broke. So, good luck with that – and you need one if you hope that modern technology will save you from the likes of Harry Reed conundrum.

      • carrie

        Because it costs money to track and investigate fraud.
        It costs our inept government 5 times what it costs a well run company to investigate.

        • slider 96

          nice guess , but there aint no free lunch . . poor answer.

  • Mo_

    I am so sick of this garbage.

    I have been out of full time work for five years. I do child care twice a week and a bit of typing. I am sure I am way under the poverty level. Yet I still have to pay taxes. And THIS is what I am paying for?

  • lizaz

    Why are these cards even acceptable at ATMs??? Go back to the paper food stamps….there is way too much abuse here….maybe if the recipients were subject to the "embarrassment of life on the dole" some would get a JOB….some outlets even give away cash and keep some for themselves. It's a ripoff of the taxpayer and it's all set up by this "government" to buy votes from these freeloaders!!! Any abuse should result in denial of further benefits!!!

  • slider 96

    Food Stamps have been around since the 70's , it's not " this government ", and as far as votes ,37% of recipents are black ,32% are white , It's not a question of votes , it 's soley a matter of resolve to cut out the fraud and prosecute violators . That takes the bi-partisan co-operation of our Lawmakers in Washington . But as I said , the bunch we have in Washington cant agree on what day it is . It took legislation to change fromnfood stamp books to cards that can be used in ATM's and it takes those who accept those charges to redeem them from the government ….so WHO's watching the store ???

    • Fritz

      They had abuse under the paper food stamp system as well, if anything it was easier since the stamps were completely anonymous. Someone told me of a case where someone offered to pay for merchandise at a garage sale using the old style food stamps, and the seller took it.

    • Shotpusher

      Food stamp rolls are at their highest level EVER. And are you really going to compare the elderly getting less than $50 a month in food stamps to the welfare queens with 6 illegit kids getting $800 a month plus the "unearned" income tax credit, a windfall that will net her thousands every year? It was this Adminstration who illegally bypassed Congress and took out "welfare to work" legislation.

  • liason

    When will it end?? Day after day, abuse after abuse, presidetial decree after decree…America IS DONE!! The welfare wheel is here and it will roll on forever…to the bitter end!!

    • Fritz

      Which will be sometime past 2020 when the line of credit runs out.

  • Ghostwriter

    Is the EBT thing really what we need now?

  • Fritz

    They should go with the system they have in Canada, you get one cheque the last Wednesday of the month and you can either cash it or deposit it. When the money runs out it runs out, you can spend it on rent and food, or blow it all and sleep in the park. I've never understood this American idea of having one department issue this handout and another department issue another with different terms to qualify. I'm assuming that the threshold to qualify for these EBT cards must be pretty low if the wrong people can manage to get a hold of them simply to go on a three day drunk.

  • carrie

    MO tracked some of their states EBT charges. The cards were used in all 50 states at liquor stores,strip clubs,casinos etc. CA,Hawaii ,Vegas and NY seemed to be favorite vacation spots.

    Then they did a review of Obama phones.There are people with 3 and 4 free phones.

    (KMOV.com) — A Missouri businessman was charged with fraud Thursday after authorities alleges he used Illinois welfare benefits at Hooters restaurants and in places like Costa Rica and Puntarenas.

    (KMOV) — Missouri welfare dollars are being withdrawn at places like Sea World and the Magical Midway Amusement Park in Orlando, Florida. News 4 requested ATM data from the Missouri Department of Social Services covering a one year period beginning on September 1, 2010.
    News 4 I-Team showed Missouri and Illinois welfare cash was being withdrawn at casinos, bars, and businesses across Las Vegas, Nevada.

    (News 4 Investigates) — Each time you pay your cell phone bill there's a fee to provide free cell phones to people in need.
    The government funded Lifeline program started with good intentions, but as a News 4 investigation revealed, it's a program riddled with fraud and abuse.Even U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri got one of these free phones.

    (KMOV) – A local man has pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud.
    John Yatim, 51, pleaded guilty to stealing $250,000 in food stamp benefits from E and J Market in Ferguson. According to court documents, Yatim traded cash and cigarettes for food stamp transactions .

    The stories are endless and nothing is done.

  • Mappy

    The crash is coming. When it does, the suffering will be beyond comprehension. It's nice to have something to look forward to!!!