JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly 200 people who police said traded food stamp benefits for cash not only face criminal charges, they will also lose their access to their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits for at least one year.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced Tuesday that a multiyear undercover investigation called Operation Half-Back had busted several fraudulent businesses that were exchanging people's SNAP for cash, giving them 50 cents on the dollar.
Police were charing 21 people accused of running the scheme with organized fraud, but 177 others accused of cashing in the benefits were to be charged with public assistance fraud. Most of those people were charged with felonies because the transaction was worth more than $200.
What those people will soon learn is they will also lose their benefits.
According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, which administers the federal SNAP program in the state:
- First-time offenders are disqualified from receiving benefits for 12 months.
- Second-time offenders are disqualified from receiving benefits for 24 months.
- If someone is caught a third time, they will never again be eligible for the program.
Many food stamp recipients are applauding this crackdown on widespread fraud. Some SNAP recipients said they also think stiffer penalties need to be put into place for those caught abusing the system.
Ronie Butler says the SNAP program helped her family afford the specialized food her grandson needs because of his allergies.