State investigators uncover more than $1 million in food stamp fraud

Lone Star SNAP benefit card. ((SBG San Antonio))

State investigators found more than $1 million of food stamp fraud last year.

The Office of Inspector General for Texas Health and Human Services identified more than $1 million in SNAP benefit fraud during fiscal year 2018 according to a OIG quarterly report. Investigators identified more than $500,000 in fraud for recovery in the fiscal 2019/

The report stated the OIG Fraud Hotline gets about 3,500 hundred calls a year for allegations of fraud related to either SNAP or EBT system issues.

“Some people are illegally giving away the card to some other people on a fraud basis. Suppose there’s $100 balance, they might sell it for $50 and give them the PIN number,” said Anwar Tahir, owner of Leal Food Mart.

Tahir said he gets about 20 customers a day who use SNAP benefits to buy food and drinks.

“Mostly meat, poultry products, milk, chips and sometimes soda,” Tahir said.

There are a lot of people who get SNAP benefits in our area.

Last month, there were 287,849 SNAP benefit recipients in Bexar County and more than $32 million in SNAP benefits were paid out in the county just last month. The average recipient got $263.

A Texas lawmaker wants to crack down on fraud involving the state's food stamp program.

The new bill filed by Beaumont lawmaker Rep. Dade Phelan would require a person's photo to be added to their Lone Star Card. It would also require the state's fraud hotline to be on the card while providing exemptions for certain food stamp recipients, including people over the age of 65, younger than 19, people who are disabled as well as victims of domestic violence.

Eric Cooper, president of the San Antonio Food Bank, said these added features might turn some people away from applying for SNAP benefits.

“We should be efficient with what we’re requiring so it doesn’t create a deterrent from families that desperately need the resource, to now have this add a barrier or obstacle to overcome,” Cooper said.

If approved by the Texas State Legislature, the bill would take effect on Sept. 1.

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