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Integrity Team Going After Food Stamp Abusers In Rockingham County

8:00 PM, Aug 22, 2013   |    comments
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Wentworth, NC-- Rockingham County officials are cracking down on food stamp abusers, and investigators tell WFMY their efforts in the past year have yielded remarkable results.

The county recently put together a food stamp program integrity team which includes a county detective looking into reports of fraud and abuse in the area.

"He has the power to arrest. He has arresting authority so that means if someone is caught out there, we can actually act on the spot. He doesn't have to get a warrant," said Lance Metzler, the county manager.  

The unit has received several reports that some recipients on the program have been approaching shoppers, offering them their food stamps in return for cash, according to the director.

The exchange is not only prohibited on the low-income assistance program, but can be a felony if the amount exchanged is $400 or more.

Larry Johnson, the director of the county's Department of Health and Human Services says they thought the practice would decrease with the new electronic card system but that hasn't been the case.

Johnson estimates about 10 percent of those on the program are abusing the system.

"We're losing a lot of our funding at the federal level and the state funding is getting tighter than in the past so we want to make sure that resources that we are distributing out of this building are going to the right people and being used appropriately," Johnson explained.

County officials credit Commissioner Craig Travis for leading the effort to curb food stamp abuse in the county.

Metzler says, Travis saw the problem and recommended the county form the investigative team.

Since February, the team has issued 30 warrants and has already convicted 8 people.

The team has also successfully collected close to $200,000 back for taxpayers from food stamp abusers since 2012.

Several Triad counties say they have seen similar fraud and abuses.

According to the Department of Social Services office in Guilford County, this year, they've already identified 300 violators. Davidson County has seen 53 so far.

Metzler says for each abuse that is money that could have been used to help families who are still waiting for benefits.

To report Social Security/Disability fraud in any county, please contact Social Security Administration at 1-866-748-2091

If you live in Rockingham County, contact Crime Stoppers 336-349-9683
 
Or the Rockingham County DSS Program Integrity website.

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