Sen. Vitter: State's response to food stamp abuse weak - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sen. Vitter: State's response to food stamp abuse weak

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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

U.S. Sen. David Vitter says state leaders haven't done enough to aggressively pursue food stamp recipients who overspent their balance when the electronic food stamp service was down last month. 

Vitter's sharp criticism is aimed at the Attorney General's Office, and the Department of Children and Family Services.  He sent a letter last week to those offices demanding action for what he calls "ridiculous fraud" at some Ark-La-Tex Walmart stores back on October 12.

Cell phone video of the incident went viral, showing swarms of excited shoppers in Springhill and Mansfield loading up their grocery carts to take advantage of what appeared to be limitless Electronic Funds Benefits (EBT) cards.

Several Louisiana retailers allowed food stamp recipients to make unlimited purchases, even while balances on those cards couldn't be checked. When the glitch was fixed and an announcement was made, many overflowing carts were simply left behind.
 
Vitter's letter demanded that beneficiaries be disqualified and that they also be prosecuted.
 
Both offices responded, but Vitter has called their responses disappointing and inadequate.

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services told KSLA News 12 that it plans to pursue sanctions against those who are found to be abusing the system. DCFS spokesman, Trey Williams said the department has submitted a request to the USDA to begin that process.

In a follow-up letter Monday, Vitter asks DCFS why that is necessary. "You basically stated that you are asking permission to pursue suspensions from the program from the Obama administration, namely USDA. Why? All relevant law clearly gives the state authority to administer the program, including authority to disqualify or suspend those guilty of theft or fraud (7 USC 2015(b)). You clearly do not have to get federal permission to do this with regard to every individual enforcement action."

The letter goes on to request a personal meeting with Attorney General, Buddy Caldwell and Suzy Sonnier, the Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services. "Well, I'm going to keep pressing the points, I made again today in my 2nd letter and I'm sure you noticed in the letter I specifically asked for a face to face meeting with the attorney general and the secretary to talk about this," said Vitter during a phone interview.

Representatives from the DCFS and the AG's office have said they will offer support to any law enforcement office or DA's office that decides to prosecute, but they don't have control over whether fraud cases are prosecuted.

Copyright 2013 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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