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Agents Make Arrests on Claims of EBT Misuse at Stores

12:34 PM, Oct 5, 2011   |    comments
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Richland County, SC (WLTX) - Federal agents and Richland County deputies have arrested 4 men in what they say was the misuse of EBT cards at two Farrow Road businesses.

News19 was there as officers raided the two businesses: Fresh Open Air Market and B&B Fruit and Vegetable.

Neighbor Earl Lee Brown saw, "A bunch of police officers, county, IRS, federal agents, it was bananas."

A 15 page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court claims federal agents went into the two stores undercover and illegally used Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. Their investigation came after they received complaints from the community that there was abuse at the stores.

The complaint illustrates that similarly sized South Carolina businesses should do a little more than $2,300 a month in EBT purchases.  In April of 2010, investigators say B&B Fruit and Vegetable did $118,000 in EBT purchases.

"We saw they were raiding the place and bringing people out of the store handcuffing them," said Sabrina Brooks who stopped to watch the raid.

People use EBT cards to receive food stamp benefits.

The criminal complaint says undercover agents went into the stores and used the EBT cards to buy things like cigarettes, clothing and alcohol. Federal rules do not allow for the EBT cards to be used for those type of purchases.

In the criminal complaint, agents said store workers manually entered the cost of items versus using a scanner.  Transactions provided in the complaint show the stores charged more than the items actually cost.  Those arrested are accused of pocketing the cash surplus.

The documents also say that in some cases the cards were outright exchanged for cash.

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