OIG continues to combat benefit fraud
During the first quarter of fiscal year 2023, the OIG's Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Trafficking team completed 107 cases investigating retailer fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. These efforts recovered $175,585 from vendors who incorrectly submitted SNAP reimbursements.
Additionally, investigators conducted 90 compliance buys for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program and found violations at 15 stores. Compliance buys are covert in-store inspections by the Vendor Monitoring Unit (VMU) and include making purchases with WIC food cards to determine if the retailer is meeting program rules. The VMU also conducted 100 store inspections, resulting in 57 citations.
The EBT Trafficking Team and WIC Vendor Monitoring Unit work to protect nutrition programs from retailers seeking to exploit the program for unearned profit. Some of their recent case highlights include:
Texas store and SNAP client investigated for benefits trafficking
The OIG's EBT Trafficking Unit initiated an investigation of a retailer after a transaction review indicated high-dollar purchases. During the investigation, they also uncovered evidence that the SNAP recipient fraudulently allowed another individual, a United States citizen residing in Mexico, to use their address to apply for and receive $27,600 in SNAP benefits. The client agreed to an administrative settlement for the entire amount.
SNAP trafficking case pending trial
The EBT Trafficking Unit investigated an allegation that a restaurant owner purchased SNAP benefits from several recipients. The owner allegedly used the benefits to buy restaurant inventory from a large discount retailer from August 2018 through November 2021. Investigators obtained sufficient evidence to support the allegation, and the case was referred to the district attorney. A grand jury indicted the restaurant owner on September 30, 2022, and an arrest warrant was issued. The case is pending trial.
High-risk Dallas vendor cited for WIC violations
A Dallas store, identified as a high-risk vendor by the Texas WIC program, was the subject of a recent compliance buy inspection by WIC VMU. During three separate visits to the store, the WIC inspector noted an ongoing pattern of violations for failing to display the prices of all WIC-approved products. As a result of the store's noncompliance, a $320 civil monetary penalty was assessed and recovered.
If you suspect EBT trafficking or other program violations, contact the OIG Fraud Hotline at 800-436-6184 or make a report through ReportTexasFraud.com.