News


Sixty-Two South Florida Residents Charged with Public Assistance Fraud

 


The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Office of the State Attorney, 15th Judicial Circuit today announced the charging of more than 60 public assistance recipients with welfare fraud. The arrests follow an 18-month investigation named “Operation Easy Money,” during which authorities identified public assistance recipients illegally obtaining cash from government issued Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards which are authorized only for the purchase of approved food staples. 
 
“We have no tolerance for individuals who defraud programs intended for our neediest citizens,” said FDLE’s Miami Special Agent in Charge Amos Rojas, Jr. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to stop individuals who steal from government coffers.”

 
“This type of fraud not only hurts those that need it the most, but also hinders our nation’s economic recovery efforts,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw.
 
“The allegations in these cases involve individuals stealing the public’s money under the pretense of need.  Widespread fraud in government assistance programs is a double punch which destroys our confidence in these programs.  Not only do these alleged crimes defraud the taxpayer, they also deprive the community of the ability to help those who actually need our support,” said State Attorney Michael McAuliffe. “Working together in bringing these more than 60 cases at the same time, we today are sending the message – no more will we accept fraud as business as usual in government assistance.”
 
In April 2009, FDLE arrested the operators of Billy’s Market in Belle Glade, Fla. on theft and fraud charges and investigators subsequently began reviewing EBT transactions occurring at the store between January 2006 and April 2009. Investigators allege that during this period, 61 public assistance recipients used food stamp benefits on their EBT cards to acquire cash and other items ineligible for purchase at Billy’s Market. Employees at the store would ring through a transaction that indicated a food staple purchase, but then unlawfully provide cash back to the food stamp recipients and retain a portion for themselves. In most cases, few or no food items were purchased. 
 
The amount of benefits each food stamp recipient trafficked ranged from $2,000 to more than $14,000. Investigators estimate the individuals involved committed a combined $300,000 in food stamp fraud through the store during the three year period. 
 
Of the 61 charged, 16 recipients also failed to disclose income or employment in order to meet participation requirements for housing assistance. The individuals arrested were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail. An additional recipient who resides in Tampa was charged with fraud in the housing assistance program and the subsidized child day care program after failing to disclose employment. This arrest brought the total number charged in the operation to 62. 
 
According to DCF, the amount of food stamp funds provided in Palm Beach County has increased 46 percent in the past year and currently totals $20 million. More than 81,000 households in the county receive assistance and the average household benefit is $255 per month.
 
"With unprecedented numbers of Floridians in need of food assistance, the Department of Children and Families appreciates and joins the effort by law enforcement to fight fraud," DCF Southeast Regional Director Perry Borman said. "The misuse of the food stamp program represents a violation of the public trust and unfairly stains the vast majority of recipients who legitimately need assistance and abide by the rules."
 
The federal food stamp program is known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Paper food stamps are no longer issued; instead, benefits are awarded in the form of credit on EBT cards. The United States Department of Agriculture establishes the criteria for authorized food purchases, determines which stores are authorized to accept food stamp benefits, and has the authority to administer sanctions to stores violating program guidelines. The Department of Children and Families determines SNAP eligibility and allotments and distributes benefits to individuals. FDLE’s Public Assistance Fraud Program investigates misuse and abuse in the state’s public assistance programs.
 
Citizens who suspect public assistance fraud are encouraged to report it to DCF at 1-866-762-2237 or online at: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/access/ReportFraud/MainForm.aspx.
 
 
For Further Information Contact:
Heather Smith or Keith Kameg
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001
 
Therese Barbera
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office
(561) 688-3080
 
Sarah Alsofrom
Office of the State Attorney
(561) 355-7249
 
Elisa Cramer
Department of Children and Families
(561) 837-5686
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Operation Easy Money - Status as of Nov. 18 at 11 a.m.
 
The following individuals were arrested and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail:   
 
Samantha Addie, 29, of Palm Beach County             
Eloise Anderson, 32, of Palm Beach County              
Laterica Beckford, 25, of Palm Beach County          
Marquetta Beckford, 33, of Palm Beach County       
Terry Bell, 43, of Palm Beach County                       
Theresa Bent, 42, of Palm Beach County                   
Deshea Bouie, 27, of Palm Beach County                 
Johnnie Bradham, 29, of Palm Beach County           
Allessa Buckner, 35, of Palm Beach County              
Shanetta Bush, 31, of Palm Beach County                
Tanekia Butler, 26, of Palm Beach County                 
Jacqueline Davis, 45, of Palm Beach County            
Tawanna Davis, 35, of Palm Beach County              
Terfera Davis, 34, of Palm Beach County                 
Hernika Dent, 26, of Palm Beach County                 
Deborah Drummer, 31, of Palm Beach County         
Tameka Glover, 24, of Palm Beach County              
Bobbie Hardnett, 30, of Palm Beach County             
Sharlena Hickman, 38, of Palm Beach County           
Latina Hunter, 35, of Palm Beach County
Sabrina Jackson, 34, of Palm Beach County.
Keisha James, 34, of Palm Beach County
Arnita Jones, 37, of Palm Beach County
Felicia Miller Johnson, 29, of Tampa
Temika Laidler, 30, of Palm Beach County
Letrail Mathis, 30, of Palm Beach County
Rasheka Billings, 25, of Palm Beach County
Yolanda Minus, 30, of Palm Beach County
Rosalyn McNeal, 25, of Palm Beach County
Sheneka Moore, 34, of Palm Beach County
Sybrena Monroe, 51, of Palm Beach County
Natielle Burroughs, 26, of Palm Beach County
Lashawndra Odom, 25, of Palm Beach County
Robin Otis, 48, of Palm Beach County
Pierrose Paul-Emile, 31, of Palm Beach County
Vanessa Perez, 25, of Palm Beach County
Shantoria Salter, 23, of Palm Beach County
Michelle Slappy-Cox, 34, of Palm Beach County
Nicole Spear, 33, of Palm Beach County

Monique Vickers, 28, of Palm Beach County
 
Cassandre Warren, 30, of Palm Beach County
Stephanie Williams, 35, of Palm Beach County
Sharon Willingham, 42, of Palm Beach County
Zena Willis, 23, of Hendry County
 
 
The following individuals are still being sought by authorities. Anyone with information about their whereabouts should contact the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office at 561-688-3080.
 
Natosha Bailey, 24, of Palm Beach County
Latoya Burroughs, 25, of Palm Beach County
Yolanda Cox, 40, of Palm Beach County
Latoria Davis, 25, of Palm Beach County
Matoria Davis, 25, of Palm Beach County
Taris Drummer, 24, of Palm Beach County
Kennesha Funderburk, 27, of Palm Beach County
Mikola Johnson, 37, of Palm Beach County
Barbara Jones, 36, of Palm Beach County
Chantell Jones, 30, of Palm Beach County
Shaquanda Jones, 26, of Palm Beach County
Andrian Morris, 33, of Palm Beach County
Tryshell Rouse, 30, of Hendry County
Sapphiran Rudgles, 29, of Palm Beach County
Chiquilla Tanksley, 27, of Palm Beach County
Karlicia Tyler, 27, of Palm Beach County
Jaquanna West, 29, of Palm Beach County
Melissa Wiley, 32, of Palm Beach County