Workers at a Wadesboro restaurant will have to pay $62,000 in fines and penalties to the federal government over allegations of food stamp fraud.
A federal judge agreed to allow the owner and four other workers to pay the money to avoid criminal charges, federal prosecutors told Eyewitness News on Friday.
Authorities said in 2012, the Inspector General's Office with the USDA received a tip that employees of the Ladybug Restaurant in Wadesboro were using EBT cards to purchase meat and other items at local grocery stores.
"They were basically clearing out the meat drawers at these places," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ferry.
Ferry said an investigation led to the discovery of months’ worth of cash register receipts detailing nearly 50 transactions with the food stamps.
He said surveillance video from the grocery stores showed the restaurant owner's wife, Retha Lindsay, and three other workers, buying the food with the cards.
"They were taking these cards and using them to stock their restaurants," Ferry said.
Authorities said EBT cards from at least 15 different people were used over the course of nearly a year.
"We believe the individuals were being paid for the use of the cards," Ferry said.
Channel 9 spoke with the restaurant's owner, Donnell Lindsay, who denied the allegations.
"I'm not as guilty as it may seem that I am. To tell you the honest truth, I was just trying to help people out," Lindsay said.
Lindsay admitted he did accept EBT cards from individuals, but said it was in exchange for financial assistance with needs like paying utility bills.
Lindsay denied that the cards were ever used to purchase food for his restaurant.
"I ain't saying I'm perfect now, but I didn't buy food for the restaurant," Lindsay said.