by: Mark Becker Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Mecklenburg County handed out more than $240 million in food stamps in 2013, but an Eyewitness News investigation revealed that some people in Mecklenburg County are selling their food stamps for cash.
Ike Huey runs an afterschool program in south Charlotte and said he sees it often.
“There are so many kids who go hungry at the end of the month when their food stamps run out,” Huey says.
“A lot of those kids don't have food and they come here, and I see them, I talk to them. I witness it,” he says.
Huey agreed to let Eyewitness News watch and listen as a woman tried to sell him her food stamp allocation for February.
It started with a phone call, and 20 minutes later the woman showed up at his door.
“How many food stamps do you want to sell?” Huey asked.
“I'll sell 100,” the woman replied.
She offered to sell the $100 in food stamps for $40 cash -- money she said she needed to get a hotel room -- and she made it clear she’d done it many times before.
“I've done this so much that DSS will not issue me another card,” she said. “I have did it 30 times because they sent a letter.”
Eyewitness News spoke with other Department of Social Service clients who have seen or heard of those deals happening.
“You could see it happen as with as many as 10 families in a month, probably more than that,” Alexandria Crockett said.
DSS told Eyewitness News in a statement that they encourage people to report food stamp fraud and will investigate cases, pursuing legal action where it is warranted.
Court records show that prosecutions are rare in Mecklenburg County.
Only 10 people were charged in 2013 with food stamp fraud violations and only one was actually convicted in that time.
“You brought it to our attention and we know that it exists,” said state Rep. Beverly Earle, after watching some of the Eyewitness News undercover video.
Earle says doing something about food stamp fraud may be difficult, however, because no one knows for sure how many people are cheating the system and also because the state is still trying to iron out problems with NC FAST, the food stamp delivery program.
“We're trying to get this straight with NC FAST, and I don't think at this point in time we need to implement something else,” Earle said.
Citizens are encouraged to report fraud locally by calling 704-353-0600 during working hours, or 704-353-0400 after 5 p.m.
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