Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Oct 02nd

DA: No charges in food stamp misuse

marvinThere was only one reason law enforcement officers were called to the Springhill Walmart during the electronic benefits transfer glitch in October – crowd control.

No criminal reports were filed with Springhill police nor the Webster sheriff's office by Walmart or Xerox, which is why Webster District Attorney Schuyler Marvin is not pursuing charges.

"There was never any request for an investigation," Marvin said. "For us to go now and try to do something – it's an impossibility."

Six recipients have been disqualified from receiving benefits, and another 25 are under investigation by the Department of Children and Family Services.

DCFS will not release the identities or locations of the recipients.

"It's not a criminal offense, so they are entitled to confidentiality," Lindsey deBlieux, DCFS spokeswoman, said.

On Oct. 12, 2013, a Xerox system outage in 17 states showed EBT cards to show no limit resulting in 12,000 transactions by recipients who were not eligible or did not have sufficient fund balances.

Springhill and Mansfield Walmarts accepted the cards despite the outage and shoppers filled carts. Minden Walmart did not accept the cards.

Videos of the incidents were posted on YouTube and other social media sites, which Marvin said does not show actual crimes being committed.

"All of the video is of the chaos," he said. "There's no video of any individual checking out using a fake card. It's just the chaos of people pushing shopping carts around with stuff piled up."

The larger transactions were as much as $2,000. DCFS is pursuing 500 people who made the largest transactions, which combined to $315,386. As of February 20, DCFS had received 113 responses and scheduled 109 interviews from 500 target letters and questionnaires.

"Our investigations and disqualification process have been thorough and methodical to ensure that the abusers are properly disqualified," DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier said in a news release. "This is a unique type of fraud compared to the cases we usually encounter."

DCFS officials will meet with Louisiana district attorneys next week to discuss the incident.

Connect with Kristi Martin on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @writtennred.

 

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