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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Millions commit food stamp fraud every year

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - Food stamps represent one of the fastest growing federal programs in the U.S., 46 million Americans now receive assistance, but, it's a program ripe for abuse. 

Although the feds bust hundreds of retailers each year for food stamp fraud, some disqualified store owners still accept food stamps. 

Cases of beer, cartons of cigarettes, even cold hard cash to buy big-ticket times, is how hundreds of your tax dollars are spent each year in a slick food stamp scheme. 

"Sometimes it's the good themselves that are contraband," says Michael Tanner with the CATO Institute. "Sometimes you get cash back." 

Tanner studies the governments' food stamp program for the CATO Institute, a Washington think tank. Tanner says it's easy to use food stamps illegally and the federal government knows it. 

Each year, the government bas about 1,000 retailers nationwide for fraud. In the Baltimore area alone, agents have permanently disqualified 39 store owners since 2006. 

"The food stamp program has always had one of the highest rates of waste, fraud and abuse," said Tanner. 

An ABC 2 News investigation has revealed that some of the same vendors who were busted are wrongly readmitted to the program as many as four times. We found nearly a third of the disbarred sites were approved to trade in food stamps again. 

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