Agriculture IG report: Banned retailers redeemed more than $65 million in 2012

posted at 1:41 pm on August 22, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

While we wait for Congress to return and make some moves on what will surely continue to be the contentious battle over the to-be-determined budget for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — Republicans have dared to propose an oh-so-draconian 5 percent cut to the program (whose budget has more than doubled since 2008 alone!) as well as to institute further fraud controls, and Democrats are vehemently not partial to their plan — here’s another rather largish example of all of the waste, fraud, and abuse of the program about which those dastardly and unfeeling Republicans are always raving. The WFB picked it up:

Retailers who have been banned by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for food stamp trafficking are still redeeming more than $65 million in benefits from the program, a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector general (IG) found. …

“The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) does not have clear procedures and guidance to carry out key oversight and enforcement activities to address SNAP retailer fraud, or adequate authority to prevent multiple instances of fraud—either by a particular owner or within a particular location,” the Aug. 20 audit report states.

“As a result, the integrity of SNAP is at risk because FNS does not consistently provide deterrents for trafficking,” the IG said. SNAP “trafficking” means exchanging food stamp benefits for cash. …

The audit found that the “FNS currently allows 585 multi-unit retail store owners to continue redeeming SNAP benefits at other locations after being permanently disqualified for trafficking in one location.”

As a result, the banned retailers redeemed $65.3 million in benefits in fiscal year 2012.

The FNS disputes that the banned retailers are necessarily committing fraud, or something, but the report makes a number of recommendations for procedures that the agency can and should start instituting to control what is clearly widespread shady behavior and improper use of the program. While Republicans will likely (and rightly) point to this report as a piece of evidence for how American tax dollars are going to a program rife with fraud and waste, Democrats’ immediate rejoinder tends to run somewhere along the lines of criticizing Republicans for their disproportionate focus on fraud and insisting that the vast majority of the food stamp budget goes to helping needy families who would otherwise have trouble making ends meet. I.e., expect the easily marketable but intellectually cheap and false moral choice between more food stamps or more hunger to even more fiercely rear its ugly head when Congress returns. Republicans do have a vision for a robust and inclusive economy in which employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are so widely available and attractive that Americans neither want nor need the government to keep increasing its welfare spending — and deficit-spending our way into oblivion isn’t a part of it.


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By design.

questionmark on August 22, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Don’t we really ALL need food stamps?

Aren’t the teats on the Federal Sow big enough for all us piggies?

PappyD61 on August 22, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Well then it’s good we have a record number of people receiving food stamps.

As for the cover pic you couldn’t pay me enough to shop in a store with aisles that narrow, I’m not even sure I would fit.

Bishop on August 22, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Ooopsie, looks like Senator Flake already found a nice warm one to suckle on.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/jeff-flake-farm-subsidies_n_1874696.html

The family of Rep. Jeff Flake, the Republican nominee for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat, has received farm subsidies under federal programs that he has proposed ending.

Flake’s family benefited to the tune of $254,121 in farm subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture between 1995 and 2004, according to the Environmental Working Group. The subsidies were for the F Bar Cattle Company in Snowflake, Ariz., which is operated by Flake’s family.

Specifically, the EWG database lists the company as receiving $68,971 in farm conservation subsidies and $185,150 in farm disaster subsidies from 1995 to 2004. No farm subsidies are recorded for 2005 through 2011.

The database also notes that the Flake family received $118,448 in livestock subsidies between 1995 and 2011. The livestock subsidies were not broken down by year on EWG’s website.

PappyD61 on August 22, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Fraud will occur anywhere that big money flows. To cut out the fraud, you have to cut the programs that provide the big money. Any politician that campaigns on cutting waste, and preserving/growing programs is lying through their teeth.

dominigan on August 22, 2013 at 1:53 PM

They should do away with SNAP completely. Just invest in a fleet of vehicles that show up at the local Post Office on a given day and dispense government provided cheese or whatever is in surplus out the back to those qualified for benefits.

Happy Nomad on August 22, 2013 at 1:58 PM

We need a rewards program, so if a private citizen reports indivudual cases of Food Stamp fraud and an investigation finds that there is fraud, the citizen gets a reward based on a % of the level of fraud. If a program like that is good enough for the IRS, it’s good enough for Food Stamps and other welfare programs.

We also need ‘Food Stamp’ debit cards manufactured in an oversize dimension and colored bright fluorescent orange. Stigma can be a good thing.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2013 at 2:02 PM

PappyD61 on August 22, 2013 at 1:48 PM

So are you suggesting that Flake’s family is doing something illegal or unethical?

Happy Nomad on August 22, 2013 at 2:03 PM

“The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) does not have clear procedures and guidance to carry out key oversight and enforcement activities to address SNAP retailer fraud, or adequate authority to prevent multiple instances of fraud—either by a particular owner or within a particular location,” the Aug. 20 audit report states.

By design.

rbj on August 22, 2013 at 2:04 PM

We also need ‘Food Stamp’ debit cards manufactured in an oversize dimension and colored bright fluorescent orange. Stigma can be a good thing.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2013 at 2:02 PM

When MD first got EBT cards years ago, I think they were called Liberty cards or Freedom cards or something. The technology wasn’t as transparent as it is today. The grocery I shopped in apparently only had one reader for about 12 check out lanes. So, whenever somebody tried to pay by EBT the cashier had to call out to the manager “freedom card line 5″ or whatever.

A little bit of shame can work wonders.

Happy Nomad on August 22, 2013 at 2:07 PM

The audit found that the “FNS currently allows 585 multi-unit retail store owners to continue redeeming SNAP benefits at other locations after being permanently disqualified for trafficking in one location.”

Perhaps a 3×5 card, with the names of the BANNED retailers STAPLED to the forehead of the idiot that approved the payouts?

It’s all so horribly difficult.

GarandFan on August 22, 2013 at 2:10 PM

One of the easiest tactics of the left is to cry hypocrisy when a republican accepts money from programs that they denounce. It happened most notably when the republicans rallied against the stimulus but then took funds for their states.

Get over yourself libs. If every states’ tax dollars weren’t funding these federal grab bags you’d have a good argument. Instead you expect all states to pay in but only the corrupt blue states to cash checks. It’s not a zero sum game.

Bensonofben on August 22, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Republicans do have a vision for a robust and inclusive economy…

Conservatives do. Republicans apparently do not; the difference between the ‘Republican’ vision and the ‘Democrat’ vision is but a question of amplitude. What both espouse are not fundamentally different anymore.

Both want government-run healthcare (Republicans want to ‘replace’ Obamacare, not eliminate it’; both want larger government, more entitlements, more regulation more taxes, more spending. ‘Republicans’ just want little bit less of it all than Democrats do – both are destroying us.

Midas on August 22, 2013 at 2:18 PM

One of the easiest tactics of the left is to cry hypocrisy when a republican accepts money from programs that they denounce. It happened most notably when the republicans rallied against the stimulus but then took funds for their states.

Get over yourself libs. If every states’ tax dollars weren’t funding these federal grab bags you’d have a good argument. Instead you expect all states to pay in but only the corrupt blue states to cash checks. It’s not a zero sum game.

Bensonofben on August 22, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Agreed. You can be against a program in principle and still accept money from it depending on your situation.

Same for unemployment insurance, food stamps, belonging to a union, etc. Our main problem with all of these programs is that they have grown into monsters mostly due to liberals that lower the bar year after year in order to grow their captive base.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2013 at 2:25 PM

It’s a losing battle for Republicans.The whole country is against them on this with the screaming that will come out of the MSM.They will do better looking the other way and not even mentioning it.

docflash on August 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Emily Loutella has a suggestion. Just use technology to pack all the nutrients required into a stamp, and then literally make food stamps and distribute them to the needy. Problem solved. Next question…..

NOMOBO on August 22, 2013 at 4:00 PM

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2013/01/0013.xml&printable=true&contentidonly=true

Somewhere I saw an announcement saying they were taking steps to “stay ahead of the curve”. That made me laugh…they are ahead of the curve only because they have been lapped several times and the snail is still ahead of them.

teejk on August 22, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Agriculture IG report: Banned retailers redeemed more than $65 million in 2012

How is this any different from what they’ve been doing in Washington for 100 years, that is, robbing U.S. taxpayers?

Besides, the Dems are probably OK with it anyway, the Repubs don’t really care, so in the end it’s another political show that means nothing.

In the America I thought I lived in, folks would be going to court, and then jail over this and others would be voted out of office, possibly charged with a crime, if they knew about it and did nothing.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 22, 2013 at 5:05 PM

We also need ‘Food Stamp’ debit cards manufactured in an oversize dimension and colored bright fluorescent orange. Stigma can be a good thing.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2013 at 2:02 PM

And I would suggest a photo of the intended recipient of the food stamps.

Perhaps a 3×5 card, with the names of the BANNED retailers STAPLED to the forehead of the idiot that approved the payouts?

It’s all so horribly difficult.

GarandFan on August 22, 2013 at 2:10 PM

I still maintain with all the computer technology that it can’t be that hard to program the cards with acceptable product numbers. Junk food and anything else unacceptable should be denied on the card.

hopeful on August 22, 2013 at 6:25 PM

I still maintain with all the computer technology that it can’t be that hard to program the cards with acceptable product numbers. Junk food and anything else unacceptable should be denied on the card.

hopeful on August 22, 2013 at 6:25 PM

That’s done already with WIC, so it can be done with SNAP.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2013 at 6:41 PM

I still maintain with all the computer technology that it can’t be that hard to program the cards with acceptable product numbers. Junk food and anything else unacceptable should be denied on the card.

hopeful on August 22, 2013 at 6:25 PM

That’s done already with WIC, so it can be done with SNAP.

slickwillie2001 on August 22, 2013 at 6:41 PM

It ain’t the instore buy…SNAP has become a second currency…buy whatever you want under whatever guidelines they set up…then proceed to the parking lot and finish your shopping trip to barter hot dogs for crack or cash or whatever. I don’t know how to fix that other than to limit the products to what they were when the program started (excess cheese and butter and other ag products bought to support farm prices). Not much barter value there.

teejk on August 22, 2013 at 7:35 PM

I still maintain with all the computer technology that it can’t be that hard to program the cards with acceptable product numbers. Junk food and anything else unacceptable should be denied on the card.

hopeful on August 22, 2013 at 6:25 PM

How about the card can’t be activated unless a prospective employer processes a valid job application?

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 22, 2013 at 8:12 PM

We need laws that hold people accountable in government when they don’t do their jobs. Like letting so much fraud take place. We (taxpayers) should also be able to sue these idiots for our money back. See the government wrote laws protecting themselves from being sued. So they just keep getting away with criminal acts like not nipping fraud in the bud. I would like to know the exact total of all fraud committed against taxpayers in the last 50 years.

F_This on August 22, 2013 at 9:26 PM