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103 arrest warrants issued after undercover operation for EBT card fraud

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Posted: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 2:12 pm | Updated: 10:18 am, Wed Aug 21, 2013.

BRADENTON - Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube says his deputies have busted dozens of people for food stamp fraud. And he says he has arrest warrants out for a hundred more.

Moving the food stamp program to what are called EBT Cards, Steube says, has not made it difficult for people to sell the cards for cash. And, with no obvious public safety issue at stake, he seems to have run two versions of Operation Meal Ticket to highlight a fraud that he believes spans the state. "This his a huge fraud, through the federal government, and through our state," Steube said at a news conference Wednesday.

Steube said people facing charges sold their EBT cards for about 60% of their value, and used the money to buy drugs or alcohol. "A couple of them said I'm headed to get some rock cocaine," Steube said.

But at least one, he said, used the cards to help run his business. Gerald Millas owns three pizza restaurants, including Pizza Pro's (sic) in a shopping plaza at the corner of 14th Street West and 57th Avenue West in Bradenton. He says Millas used the cards he had bought for a fraction of their worth to buy supplies for his restaurants.

A worker at the restaurant Thursday told ABC 7 that Millas was not there.

The sheriff says another man arrested, Stephen Boyd, had an EBT card not only in Florida, but in Maryland and South Carolina too. The lack of laws requiring businesses to verify that EBT cards belong to the person using them, make it easy for people to use them to steal from taxpayers, Stseube says, noting with frustration that such an abuse of tax dollars can happen while tight budgets constrain his crime-fighting efforts.

"This makes me angry that this is going on when I can't go before my own county commission to get the money that I feel is necessary to run my agency," he said.

He believes that putting something as simple people's photos on EBT cards, or simply requiring that people show a driver's license to use them would eliminate much of the fraud. He says he will meet with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, next week, hoping that Buchanan will carry his concerns to Washington.

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6 comments:

  • JimmyM posted at 4:53 am on Mon, May 27, 2013.

    JimmyM Posts: 1

    Welfare, as it is frequently called, is highly controversial, as many feel that people aren't entitled to any money that are capable of working but refuse to do so. The reason for welfare supports is not helped by sordid welfare card distributions, which are turning up at casinos, strip clubs and so forth nationwide.

     
  • swanny posted at 10:35 am on Mon, May 6, 2013.

    swanny Posts: 1

    This guy is going to cause ME additional hardship. I already don't have a car and I wasn't able to renew my Drivers license due to LACK of money. I also have problems walking a store. I need new glasses too but do not have money for that. I need to go to a Doctor for meds but why bother....the health dept no longer handles stuff like they used to and poor..really poor people like me have lost their primary care. I make out a list and my room mate buys my food with my EBT and brings me the receipt. This sheriff wants to make things tough but he will make it tough for us REALLY poor people to get FOOD. He worries about being able to have things to arrest people when the state uses forfeiture to fortify his job with new vehicles and all sorts of sci fi like gadgets. Yes, I know there are people that sell their EBT but why should I have to suffer any more for the crimes OTHERS do? I have had enough of that mentality.

     
  • kittykat posted at 11:31 am on Fri, May 3, 2013.

    kittykat Posts: 10

    Yeah!

     
  • kittykat posted at 11:29 am on Fri, May 3, 2013.

    kittykat Posts: 10

    Hey man

     
  • Rickles posted at 9:32 pm on Wed, May 1, 2013.

    Rickles Posts: 1

    Let them become guests of the Manatee County jail system for several days. They will love the food

     
  • William Anderson posted at 9:19 pm on Wed, May 1, 2013.

    William Anderson Posts: 7

    This sickens me. I have impoverished clients suffering hunger and poor nutrition because they can't afford rent, medicine and food and they cannot get food stamps because they "make too much." These thieves are hurting so many people. They need to be stopped. After hearing of these abuses, taxpayers who don't want to pay taxes want to provide even less to the truly poor. Sheriff Steube should be commended for this work. I hope Vern Buchanan and those in Washington do what he suggests.