Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Darke County Recognized for SNAP Benefits Savings

The Ohio Council on Welfare Fraud recently held their annual conference in Newark, Ohio. During the conference Darke County was recognized as the 2nd Most Improved County in the State for SNAP Food Assistance fraud savings. The Director’s Award for Excellence in Claims Management award was based on the Percent of Increase in Number of Intentional Program Violations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said that food assistance fraud totals $750 million each year. In the past 11 months, $429,568 has been saved by catching intentional program violators, according to the Darke County Sheriff’s Office. The operation, manned by Detective Kuzmicki of the Darke County Sheriff’s Office, with help from state and federal agencies, including the Ohio Investigative Unit and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, netted 33 violators leading to 26 arrests between May, 2014 and April, 2015.

Fraud Control Specialists noted Darke County’s efforts in combating public assistance fraud are greatly appreciated. Statewide, the number of claims established and collections have increased over the past two years. This increase results in higher incentive funds for the Darke County agency.
The Darke County operation also uncovered drug addicts trading their SNAP cards for illegal narcotics. Some individuals receiving benefits offered to sell their benefits for 50 cents on the dollar. Detective Kuzmicki says this type of fraud can happen anywhere, from homes to street corners, and even at the grocery store.

Among the 26 arrests was a woman cited after attempting to sell her food assistance card directly to Detective Kuzmicki inside a local grocery store. Detective Kuzmicki stated “the lady walked right up to me and said, I have a card with $200 on it and will sell you it for $100". After being notified that she tried to sell her food assistance card to a law enforcement official the woman advised she had a drug problem and needed money to purchase illegal narcotics.

SNAP benefits can only be used to buy foods to eat, such as:

  • breads and cereal
  • fruits and vegetables
  • meats, fish and poultry
  • dairy products
  • seeds and plants to produce food

SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
  • Any nonfood items, such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, diapers, and household supplies
  • Vitamins and medicines

Of the 33 violators, 4 have received a lifetime ban from the benefits program as a result of their convictions. Seven of the individuals have been given an administrative waiver, which means they have been suspended from the benefits systems for a year. Others have been sentenced or are facing fifth-degree felony charges.

Sheriff Toby L. Spencer takes a strong stand against the use of illegal trafficking of food assistance benefits in our community. Citizens are encouraged to contact the Darke County Sheriff’s Office at (937) 548-2020 with information regarding any criminal activity. Citizen may also contact the Darke County Job and Family Services Fraud Hotline at (937) 548-4132 (ext.257). Information can be left anonymously.

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