I-Team: Fighting food stamp fraud

A system used to detect welfare fraud in Texas was developed by a software company in Rhode Island, but it has yet to be deployed locally.

An NBC 10 I-Team investigation revealed how convenience stores will offer cash for food stamp benefits.

“Tommy,” a food stamp recipient, admitted selling his benefits to local convenience stores for cash, sometimes receiving 50 cents on the dollar.

He said it’s a common and sometimes necessary practice for survival, helping him purchase over-the-counter medicines and other necessities.

“In those instances when you’re between a rock and a hard place, these types of places are the only resort that you have. You can’t go to (Department of Human Services) and say I’d like $50 in cash and $150 in food stamps. They won’t give you any cash,” Tommy said.

Tommy said some people use the money for drugs, alcohol and lottery tickets. He estimated that 70 percent of the convenience stores in Providence are taking part in the fraud.

Ken Block, president of Simpatico Software Systems, and also ran for Rhode Island governor in 2010, worked with the state of Texas on the country’s first welfare debit card system. His company has helped Texas save millions of dollars in fraud.

“Let it be known that you’re watching out for these problems across the board, and you’ll begin to save money without even putting out a whole lot of effort after that because people know you can’t scam the system,” Block said.

He said he hopes to help Rhode Island combat fraud.

“What Rhode Island needs to do is some data mining. They need to look at their existing data. You don’t need special software to do it. You need people with the proper skills to go in, who know what questions to ask, look at the data and ultimately, find these patterns of fraud and abuse from within the data,” Block said.

“What you do with that data, how the data is organized, how you look at that data is how you can determine some of the frauds that are going on,” he said. 

Article source: http://www2.turnto10.com/news/2011/may/25/i-team-fighting-food-stamp-fraud-ar-504768/

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