SNAP Fraud Consequences

PUBLISHED: 9:14 PM 17 Aug 2018

How Food Stamp Abuse by Illegal Immigrants Is Perpetuating A Collapse of the American Welfare System

Recent busts in massive food stamp fraud indicates the rampant abuse of the system.

“These government programs are intended to help the poor, the elderly,” the Attorney General proclaimed, meant for “American citizens, not those that are trespassing in the country.”

Loopholes in the federal welfare rules allow illegal immigrants to take advantage of programs in a variety of creative ways, even though undocumented migrants aren’t supposed to get any benefits at all, other than in an emergency. Nationally there are about 44 million Americans receiving an average SNAP monthly benefit of $125 per month, government statistics report.

Defenders of illegals living in the “sanctuary” shadows are quick to point out that the biggest target of conservatives, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka “food stamps” does not provide benefits to non-citizens. What they conveniently forget is that the real problem is “anchor babies.”

Illegal parents are encouraged by the system to have more “citizen” children, which increases benefits for the whole family. If this goes on unchecked, the system will collapse.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently took the podium at a press conference held in the Boston offices of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Across this city and across America, teachers, truck drivers, and construction workers are going to work and paying taxes that are being stolen from the public treasury by fraudsters and criminals,” he said.

“These government programs are intended to help the poor, the elderly,” the Attorney General proclaimed, meant for “American citizens, not those that are trespassing in the country.”

“This kind of fraud is a theft from our seniors, a theft from our taxpayers and a theft from the needy.” Overall, “theft from America,” he added.

Not only do the multi-child families of illegal immigrants bog down the system, fraud and abuse is viral.

On August 7, Pakistani shop owner Muhammad Shabaz of Jersey City, New Jersey was indicted on two counts of unlawful use of food stamp benefits and one count of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud.

His customers used their Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to obtain “cash and other ineligible items, including cigarettes, pipes, hookahs and a circular saw.” He is being held on $50,000 bond.

With the devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico from last year’s hurricane, fraudsters, especially in Massachusetts, are cashing in on identity theft. Their Puerto Rican victims are already American citizens, who also happen to have conveniently Hispanic names.

Sessions highlighted one victim on the island territory who was surprised to find out that someone stole his ID, at a time when he desperately needed a housing subsidy check. His home was destroyed by hurricane Maria. “He was told he was already receiving [public housing benefits] 1,600 miles away in Massachusetts,” related the head of the Justice Department.

Government assistance programs were intended to act as a social “safety net” for the needy and those who have fallen on hard times. The concept is to provide a temporary helping hand back up, not a long-term subsidy or replacement for work.

Tara Watson at Econofact explains that illegal aliens aren’t eligible for federal programs like Temporary Assistance for needy families, which is the “cash welfare program.” They also aren’t supposed to get food stamps.

As far as health care, they aren’t eligible for “non-emergency” Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicare either, but their kids are, because if born here they are citizens. More than half of all SNAP beneficiaries are children.

Child birth is considered an “emergency” medical condition. If, for an illustrative example, “Juan” and his pregnant wife “Juanita” from Guadalajara make a run for the border before Juanita gets too chubby, and get through, Uncle Sam will pay for their baby’s delivery.

Special programs like the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program for kids and Head Start are open to everyone, regardless of citizenship status. Once the child gets old enough for school, free lunches are provided, no immigration questions asked.

Suddenly, Juan and Juanita also get a preference for legal immigration as parents of an American citizen.

Experts agree that being undocumented, Juan and Juanita don’t expect to make anywhere near $15 an hour. Most likely, they don’t even get paid their local minimum wage. To keep the tacos on the table, they get food stamps for little “Jose.” Once the groceries are paid for and served up for dinner, the whole family enjoys them.

The way the math works, Juan and Juanita are the only ones producing an income. The total income gets divided by the number of family members, to decide how much the benefit is. By adding “Josephina,” “Roberto,” and “Maricela,” one-by-one, year-after-year, the benefits steadily increase. It’s like giving yourself a raise.

While the costs vary considerably by state, and also by program, For Emergency Medicaid alone, which covers child birth expenses, the taxpayers fork over about “$2 billion per year,” a CATO institute report states.

Individual state and local governments are required, by law, to provide K-12 public school access to all, regardless of immigration status. According to the latest statistics from the Pew Research Center, “5.9 percent of students who are U.S. citizens have at least one undocumented parent.”

A separate study using 2014 data “estimated that about 40 percent of all adult undocumented immigrants live with U.S. citizen minor or adult children.”

Cracking down on illegal immigration generally has a snowball effect by preventing illegals from getting a foothold in the system to begin with, but a system bloated by unnecessary beneficiaries is only half of the problem. The assistance is only supposed to be used for edible food.

Conservatives from coast to coast have been upset that some of the states actually allow food stamp recipients to buy fast food. The few states that do, including Arizona, strictly limit which of their recipients can do that.

In Arizona, in order to qualify for the restaurant program everyone in the household must be either over the age of 60, homeless, or disabled. The reasoning being that these individuals probably are not able to cook for themselves, or have someone do it for them, all of the time.

While chicken nuggets may not be the healthiest option, it’s better than selling EBT credit on the black market for drugs. One recipient admitted “he swapped his benefits for cash to support his heroin habit and to buy diapers for his baby daughter.”

As Time Magazine reported in a history of food stamp fraud, “Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, USDA agents uncovered food-stamp trafficking rings in Chicago, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. Major crackdowns ensued.”

Some federal agents from Nevada told Time that working undercover they were able to buy “four guns, two diamond rings, a handsaw, cocaine, a macaw from Mexico, the proffered services (declined of course) of two prostitutes, even a three-room house on Tamalpais Avenue,” with food stamps.

What authorities learned then was the best way to rein in food stamp fraud involved converting from easily forged and virtually untraceable paper coupons to an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. A pin is required for each use, no cash changes hands.

Chicago, Illinois was especially adept at getting around the EBT system. Between 2014 and 2016 “more than 140 stores in Chicago and another 34 in suburban Cook County have been permanently disqualified” from participating in the SNAP program. “All but one of them were kicked out for trafficking,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms.

Customers were paying the stores up to fifty cents on the dollar when exchanging benefits for cash. “In a typical scenario, a customer might trade $100 worth of benefits for $50 cash, leaving the other $50 for the retailer,” Chicago Tribune reported.

In the predominantly minority South and West side neighborhoods, the corner stores virtually survived on food stamp laundering. Food stamps were never meant to pay for heroin or firearms but they regularly do.

Because of high profile enforcement in Chicago, the corner bodegas got “scared straight.” If a store is “caught trafficking,” the federal government “will take everything you have and they shut you down,” Mohamed Salam relates.

At nearby Homan Food and Deli, Ammar Alobadi just tells his patrons he can’t give cash for food stamps because “it’s considered haram, or forbidden, in Islam.”

Now New Jersey and Boston are the hot zones for food stamp fraud. Another lesson that food stamp recipients quickly learned after the crackdown in the 1980’s was if the merchants won’t cooperate, friends and neighbors will.

As described by shopkeeper Sami Deffala, “Some Link card holders also strike deals with other customers, using their cards to buy the customers’ groceries in exchange for cash.” That is called, “trafficking.”

The thing that brought Jeff Sessions to Boston was the celebration of the “Double Trouble” probe that netted 25 individuals, 22 of whom were illegal aliens, the Department of Justice reports. They were charged Friday “in an identity fraud scheme, with many having been previously deported with a history of violent crimes and drug trafficking.”

By “stealing and using Puerto Rican identities,” the criminals scammed the system for “free food, housing and health care.” Some of them “even abusing the system to vote.”

“Imposters,” the DOJ officials relate, “regularly use birth certificates and social security cards stolen or copied from Puerto Ricans to pose as American citizens in order to receive Medicare, evade arrest and take advantage of welfare benefits, such as EBT cards and food stamps,” Townhall wrote.

By leveraging “gross negligence of the Massachusetts’ Registry of Motor Vehicles,” the 25 accused “accounted for $200,000 in heisted Medicare, unemployment and public housing benefits.”

These aren’t families with kids either, “One of the suspects, the feds said, is a convicted killer who escaped from prison in Puerto Rico,” further reported Townhall.

“Illegal aliens often use Puerto Rican identities because the Hispanic surnames are less likely to cause suspicion amongst the government than non-Hispanic surnames.” They aren’t just getting one bogus ID, many have several.

“Frank Lara, also known as Roberto Villegas, was a heroin and cocaine dealer in Boston,” according to Kevin Rothstein of WCVB. “He had seven convictions, five Massachusetts licenses with different identities and 11 aliases. Lara was deported after we tracked him down.”

When Rafael Nicholas Lopez Carrasco was arrested with “30 pounds of heroin,” Rothstein says, “he had two driver’s licenses, three aliases and he had previously been deported.” Juan Gonzalez “was arrested with four pounds of heroin stashed in a mayonnaise jar. He is smiling on his state-issued EBT card given to him under the assumed identity of Alex Hernandez.”

There has been a lot of controversy lately about the separation of children from their parents when they cross the border illegally. This issue only serves to highlight why aggressive immigration enforcement is the right thing to do.

By allowing people to enter the country illegally, then have multiple children, it only increases the likelihood that the family will be ripped apart later, when the fraudulent immigration status eventually surfaces.

These dollars are better spent on U.S. citizens. The time has come to take a close look at ways that the system can be reined in. Some lawmakers are suggesting fixes like work requirements and limits on how long a person can receive benefits.