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90 people charged in Pennsylvania SNAP benefits, public assistance fraud worth $716K

Pennsylvania inspector general discusses SNAP, public assistance fraud; 90 charged in April and May
Pennsylvania inspector general discusses SNAP, public assistance fraud; 90 charged in April and May 02:00

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania inspector general filed public assistance fraud charges against 90 people in April and May, state officials announced Tuesday. 

In total, the defendants owe $716,496 in restitution to the commonwealth, according to the Office of State Inspector General. They will be temporarily disqualified from receiving the benefits they allegedly defrauded, which will save the state more money, according to the announcement. 

The inspector general has filed felony charges against 85 of the defendants and misdemeanors against five others. 

The office alleges that these individuals "either trafficked their public assistance or misrepresented their household circumstances and fraudulently received taxpayer-funded public benefits to which they were not entitled," according to the statement.

"I think the numbers are somewhere in the neighborhood of 330 filings so far this year, through June, and then around $2 million, I think, in restitution for those cases," Inspector General Lucas Miller said. "So it's a good amount of work that we are doing to bring anywhere from 700 to 1,000 criminal charges in a given year. 

Miller stressed in an interview with CBS News Philadelphia that these bad actors make up a small number of the overall recipients, about 1% or 2%. Still, he said, more than 600 people were charged in 2023 and more than $3 million is owed in restitution.

The maximum penalty for public assistance fraud is seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000, the inspector general's office said. In cases of fraud related to SNAP, cash assistance and subsidized daycare fraud, there is also a mandatory period of ineligibility for the program a person allegedly defrauded. 

The inspector general's office investigates and prosecutes fraud related to public benefits administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. The office works to prevent this fraud as well, Miller said.

In April and May 2023, the office announced it had filed charges against 107 people in cases totaling more than $639,000.

CBS News Philadelphia reported earlier this month that several families in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York found that funds on the EBT cards that hold their SNAP benefits — formerly known as food stamps — were nearly drained, often at stores in states or cities they have never visited. Experts said that because those cards don't have a chip, they are less secure and more susceptible to skimming devices. 

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating that theft as part of a possible transnational organized crime scheme.

READ MORE: What should I do if I'm a victim of stolen SNAP benefits?

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