Store Owner Accused Of Food Stamp Trafficking 5-14-2011 - WNEM TV 5

Store Owner Accused Of Food Stamp Trafficking 5-14-2011

An investigation led by the Michigan Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General has led to an arrest on suspicion of food stamp trafficking and racketeering charges, DHS Deputy Director Brian Rooney announced Saturday.
“Food assistance is meant as a hand-up to Michigan citizens who are truly needy and DHS will aggressively pursue anyone who tries to take advantage of the welfare system and defraud Michigan taxpayers,” Rooney said.
Authorities said a Lapeer County store, Scott’s Bargain Barn in Columbiaville, was the target of a raid for alleged food stamp trafficking of more than $22,000.
Store owner Scott A. Smith, of Columbiaville was arraigned Saturday and charged with racketeering and food stamp trafficking.
The charges come after a month-long investigation by the DHS Office of Inspector General, and Genesee and Lapeer County sheriffs’ deputies. It is alleged that the store exchanged food stamp benefits for cash or for items not allowed under federal guidelines, authorities said.
"The Genesee County Sheriff’s Department will continue to investigate the criminal activities of store owners, employees and recipients who intend to defraud state assistance programs in the Genesee County area,” Sheriff Robert J. Pickell said.
Sheriff Ron Kalanquin said, “The Lapeer County Sheriff’s Department will focus on investigations such as this to ensure that county citizens receive the assistance they need to climb out of poverty. Cooperative investigations provide an excellent opportunity to pool talent and resources of statewide law enforcement organizations.”
Racketeering is punishable by 20 years and/or a $100,000 fine. Food stamp trafficking is a 10-year felony and could bring a $250,000 fine.
“Collaborative efforts between agencies are essential in expediting fraud investigations to make certain that our state’s limited resources only go to those who are truly needy,” DHS OIG Director Al Kimichik said.
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