State will pursue food stamp recipients who took advantage of gl - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

State will pursue food stamp recipients who took advantage of glitch

BATON ROUGE, La. - The state is going after food stamp recipients w­­ho took advantage of the system while it was down in October.

The Jindal administration announced Wednesday that it will strip food stamp benefits from those who deliberately overspent their balances. The state will also form a task force with local prosecutors to pursue criminal charges.

The glitch happened Oct. 12 when the electronic card system was down across 17 states, and balances couldn't be checked. Several Louisiana retailers, including Walmart stores in Mansfield and Springhill, allowed food stamp recipients to make unlimited purchases even though there wasn't enough money on their EBT cards.

When the system came back online a few hours later, people who had filled their shopping baskets abandoned their carts and left the store.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter was outraged at what he called theft and fraud, and he pressured state officials to take action.

"Fraud in general, theft and fraud in the system, is a curious problem and a growing problem," Vitter said. "We need to look at that on an ongoing basis. But this one particular case I think was particularly dramatic and particularly egregious."

Secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services Suzy Sonnier said the department is looking at each case individually and going after the most egregious cases first.

The agency will let inform suspected violators by mail that they could be disqualified from the food stamp program. Recipients will have 90 days to appeal through an administrative hearing.

 

Those found to have violated the rules who are first-time offenders could lose their benefits for a year. Second-time offenders face a two-year suspension. Third-time offenders will permanently lose their benefits.

 

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