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Caught on Camera: Illegally selling food stamps

Posted at 11:30 PM, Feb 25, 2016
Million of dollars go to Electronic Benefit Transfer cards or food stamp cards each year.
 
In October 2015, the state distributed $52.4 million and in November 2015, there were 441,000 participants in the program. The EBT cards are meant to help low-income families afford groceries.
 
Our investigative team found the cards not in the supermarket, but on the black market.
 
Action News met up with one man trying to sell his EBT card for $1,500. But, he was certainly not the only one trying to get cash in exchange for those benefits.
 
Craigslist has dozens of people seeking and selling EBT cards.
 
"The cash part, they can possibly use it for anything from alcohol to drugs, whatever," said Patrick Williams, a Social Services Manager for the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.
 
EBT cards are like debit cards. They can be used at verified stores to buy food. But some people would rather have cash and are often willing to sell the cards for less money than their value in food.
 
 
The seller we met posted multiple Craigslist ads, looking for buyers. He seemed to know selling the card is against the law, but wanted us to know he wouldn't be using the money for drugs.
 
"Do I look like a drug addict?" he asked.
 
"Do you think your investigators do a good job cutting down on fraud?" Action News asked.
 
"Actually they investigate over two thousand cases a day," said Williams.
 
Those are busy days for the 20 investigators with the agency statewide. They alert websites like Craigslist or social media sites of EBT fraud posts. They also have software that alerts them when keywords come up on those websites, so they do not have to rely on manual searches.
 
Although selling the cards is illegal, there's no record of anyone being arrested for it in Nevada. Instead, they're banned from benefits. The only ones arrested are people with businesses willfully participating in the fraud.
 
After talking to the would-be seller for 45 minutes and not getting a concrete answer as to what he would use the money for, he still wanted something from us.
 
"Are you going to give me a ride back for walking here today?" he asked.
 
After our encounter, this particular seller took his posts down. We submitted his information to the agency to begin their investigation.
 
If you see EBT fraud, you can anonymously report it here.