Boy, Governor Martin O’Malley is sure getting some great distinctions for Maryland. Yesterday, we learned Maryland is last in the nation in job creation and now we learn we have the great honor of being second in the nation in food stamp fraud!
From the Washington Examiner:
The use of food stamps has soared in the D.C. region, but so has the cost of fraud, and Maryland now ranks second in the country in misappropriated food assistance funding.
The number of people receiving food stamps in Maryland has more than doubled since 2007 to nearly 677,000 as of April, or about 11 percent of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Virginia, use grew by 75 percent — more than doubling in Fairfax County alone. In the District, two of every 10 residents now use food stamps, up by a third since before the recession.
The food stamp program more than doubled to $65 billion annually over the last five years and abuse and fraud now account for $2 billion of that, the USDA reports. The causes range from simple computer glitches to outright lying by applicants.
Maryland penalized $350,000 and only recouped $572,000.
Maryland ranks second in the nation when it comes to losses because of improper payments, according to 2009 data, the latest available. Only Texas lost more. For every $100 in benefits, Maryland paid $5.66 to people who weren’t eligible. Virginia ranked seventh nationally with a rate of $4.68. The District actually lost the least, $3.35 per $100.
Maryland has since been penalized $350,000 by the federal government for its mistakes and is required to use that money to improve its payment system.
The states have recouped only part of those overpayments. In the first quarter of this year, Virginia got back $1.8 million of the $13.4 million it overpaid. Maryland got back just $572,000 of the $10 million it overpaid.
Those numbers reflect mostly the little welfare cheats, the big fraud is in trafficking in food stamps something I began following several year ago when a Pakistani Convenience Store owner was busted in Hagerstown for trafficking. Basically how it works is that customers bearing food stamps enter the store and are given cash for their benefit at 50 cents on the dollar. The store owner is then reimbursed by the Dept of Agriculture (the US taxpayer) for the full dollar.
Here is the Examiner on the cost of trafficking:
Food stamp trafficking, the illegal practice of exchanging food stamps for cash, poses further problems, costing about $1 for every $100 in assistance, according to the USDA. But only the most heinous cases actually make it to court, and many of the retailers who are sanctioned are eventually allowed to rejoin the food stamps program.
I’ve been following the heinous cases for years, which to a large degree involve immigrant-owned or managed convenience stores, at my other blog. Check out this story yesterday about all the Mohammad’s involved in food stamp fraud. Oh, and by the way, the Hagerstown, Maryland scammer now serving time in prison is named Mohammad too!