Many PD: Walmart EBT glitch theft investigation closed...for now - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Many PD: Walmart EBT glitch theft investigation closed...for now

Posted: Updated: Nov 6, 2013 01:41 AM CST
The Many store was among at least 3 Walmart locations in northwest Louisiana where customers showed up in droves on that night, filling carts to overflowing and checking out using EBT cards that were temporarily not showing any limits because of a glitch. The Many store was among at least 3 Walmart locations in northwest Louisiana where customers showed up in droves on that night, filling carts to overflowing and checking out using EBT cards that were temporarily not showing any limits because of a glitch.
MANY, LA (KSLA) -

The Many Police Department's determination to pursue criminal charges against those who may have broken the law during an EBT system outage last month appears to have hit a dead end.

The outage allowed Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) purchases to be made on EBT cards, even though they were not showing limits for a period of about 2 hours on that night. Crowds filled the aisles at least 3 Walmart stores in North Louisiana during that period, loading up shopping carts and clearing shelves. When the system was restored and the limits reappeared, many shoppers reportedly abandoned those carts and left the store.

It happened at retail stores in 17 states, but most followed contractual requirements to set a $50 limit and call for authorization of charges during a system outage.

The incident prompted Many PD to put those who may have taken advantage of the situation on notice: Investigators were working closely with the store to review surveillance video and identify suspected thieves. There were even plans to post those pictures on the department's Facebook page.

However, according to a post the Page Tuesday evening, those efforts have fallen through. "Apparently after reviewing surveillance tapes and interviewing witnesses, Walmart has no evidence of any theft, nor any other criminal activity during the October 12th disturbance at the store."

That is in stark contrast with the reports that brought officers to the store back on that date.

According to retired Many Police Chief Dean Lambert, who now runs the Many Police Department Facebook page, officers were called to the store around 8 p.m. on that night, after an assistant store manager reported that people were attempting to leave the store without paying for groceries when the EBT system would not work. Lambert says officers were told that at least one man reportedly made it out of the store without paying for a cart full of groceries, exiting through the garden department.

Now, however, the Many Police Department says they have closed the investigation. "If the department becomes aware of any new evidence, then that status could certainly change. But for now, the case is inactive."

There were signs last week that the investigation wasn't going as police had hoped. According to an update posted on Thursday, efforts to pursue criminal charges in connection with the incident had been "handicapped" by the lack of surveillance images from the store. They would have liked access to the records of the transactions from the Department of Children and Family Services "of excessive purchases by card holders," according to the October 31 update, "but this might very well be impossible."

DCFS has expressed a "commitment to cooperating fully with law enforcement if any effort to prosecute individuals at the request of the retailers," but so far, no retailers have indicated they'll press charges or seek refunds. In the Many case, Lambert now says the local Walmart has stated that they "did not incur a loss from criminal action." Without a victim or any evidence of criminal intent, the District Attorney cannot take a case to trial.

The state has asked the USDA, which runs the SNAP program, for permission to revoke benefits from those who knowingly overcharged their EBT cards. While they said they expected a response late last week, there has been no word of it actually arriving.

Louisiana's current SNAP policy allows a one year sanction from the program for a first offense, a 24 month suspension for a second offense and a permanent disqualification for a third offense.

Copyright 2013 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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