Prosecutors launch effort against food assistance trafficking

Lancaster

Police in Lancaster County will soon go undercover to fight the trafficking of benefits people receive under the state’s food assistance program.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman and Pennsylvania Inspector General Bruce Beemer said police will target merchants who buy EBT cards from recipients for just a fraction of the value then use the cards to purchase merchandise for their stores.

Officials in the county investigated between 50 and 100 cases of welfare fraud last year, many involving SNAP benefits. In the past, police have targeted those who sold their cards.

“If you don’t go after the merchants as well, they’re the ones creating the market, the marketplace where these folks can sell their benefits,” Beemer said. “We’re also looking to go after the people making straight profit from this and not just the individuals who are selling their benefits.”

A new Pennsylvania law makes fraudulent trafficking of SNAP benefits in an amount greater than $2,500 a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Those convicted can be required to pay restitution of up to three times the amount of fraud they committed.

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