(Memphis) For many struggling families, food stamps put food on the table.
But for others, it isn’t about food, it’s about making money.
With the swipe of an EBT card, those who need help buying groceries get food for their families.
But, the on your side investigators found obvious abuse.
We went to Food Land on Winchester where one guy told us everybody in the neighborhood knows you can buy just about anything there with no cash or credit, “If you don`t have the cash, how do you get to pay for it? Well they use the food stamp card.”
The USDA reimburses merchants when customers use the food stamp cards.
There are many rules, the most important; food stamps are only for food.
Inside Food Land, we found “food” isn’t the main offering.
We found diapers stacked almost to the ceiling and the priced higher than a typical store.
During three undercover trips inside, we found the price isn’t stopping people from buying, when they are using your money.
EBT cards are loaded with both food stamp money and Families First money.
Families First can be used to purchase non-food items, but the “Food Stamps” (SNAP) can only be used for food.
Most stores offer you the chance, once you swipe your EBT card, to choose from which account you want to make your purchases.
At Food Land, we were not offered that choice. All money was taken from the food stamp account.
We watched as people swiped the cards for diapers, and many other non-food items including condoms.
The cashier goes to get the condoms, rings them up and then the customer heads over to the machine to swipe her food stamp card.
Our undercover shopper puts detergent, ramen noodles and a six-pack of beer on the counter.
The clerk didn’t stop us when we swiped a food stamp card.
Here’s the catch.
We didn’t want to break the law, so we intentionally enter the wrong pin number a couple of times, just to be obvious.
US: “Well, you know what? If it doesn`t go through this time, I`m going to go ahead and go. Alright, I`m going to go ahead and go. Thank you, though. I`m sorry.”
But other customers using food stamp cards had no trouble leaving with detergent, paper towels, toilet tissue and other items.
And they paid for them with a card meant to put food on the table.
We went to the clerk top get some answers.
US: “We have been in here a couple of times and we`ve witnessed people purchasing things or attempt to purchase things with a food stamp card that was not eligible.
Clerk: My boss is coming. You wait for him. He will answer this question”
The boss, Rahim Kajani, never showed but did talk with us on the phone.
He denied knowing anything about illegal purchases made with food stamp cards, “That should not be happening or supposed to. If it`s happening, like that I need to check my cashiers.”
We contacted the USDA about what we found.
They’re asking us to turn over information to the inspector general’s office.
They say if Food Land or any other merchant is caught trafficking food stamps, they can be kicked out of the program, given a written reprimand, fined and even be brought up on criminal charges.