On Your Side Investigators Find More EBT Fraud & Abuse

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(Memphis) EBT cards are designed to help families in need.

They contain SNAP benefits, commonly referred to as food stamps, as well as cash benefits from a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

However, the On Your Side Investigators found purchases on those cards that are far from necessity, even after lawmakers demanded reform.

We tracked your tax dollars and the state's progress in preventing EBT fraud.

Booze, smokes, Beale Street? You may not think it's where your money should be spent when someone else is using it, but it is.

"That's just wrong," says Bonnie Wilcox.

It's also illegal in some cases.

The On Your Side Investigators tracked more than a year's worth of purchases on EBT cards across Tennessee.

We specifically looked at cash purchases and withdrawals using money from the TANF program, cash benefits that go to families in need.

WREG examined millions of transactions, worth more than $130 million from April 2012 through June 2013.

We also combed through pages detailing how Shelby County residents spent money out of state, from Wasilla, Alaska to Gulf Shores, Alabama.

When we showed taxpayers what we found, we got these responses.

"I don't think it's right," says Memphis resident Lester Thomas.

"I'm blown away," says Teresa Crandell. "I was actually shocked, I had no idea that they were able to do that."

Two laws passed in the spring of 2013 make it illegal for Tennessee residents to use EBT cards at places like casinos, strip clubs and liquor stores.

Public Chapter 312 

Public Chapter 402

However, the On Your Side Investigators found plenty of abuse, before and after reform.

Like in late 2012, there was a purchase from Lou's Liquor in Memphis for $772! We saw another for $740 at Highway 51 Liquor.

Then a month after those bills became law, WREG spotted one for $373 at Lou's.

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Month after month, WREG found swipes at mostly the same liquor stores in Shelby County.

In fact, throughout the 15 months we looked at, there were more than $180,000 worth of purchases, and purchases with cash back from liquor stores alone across the state.

One of the places we found hundreds of transactions for Shelby County residents was right across the state line in Tunica, Miss., at places like the Hollywood, Goldstrike and Fitz casinos.

Someone swiped an EBT card for $192 at a Goldstrike ATM, $103 at Fitz' 711 Lucky Lane.

There were more than $1,500 worth of withdrawals at Hollywood.


"The EBT cards should go to help the family not to go gamble," added Thomas.

Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville carried the two bills that addressed EBT fraud.

WREG showed him the spreadsheets we developed with the EBT transactions.

While looking at the pages he said, "Two-hundred, $162, holy cow! There's your liquor store owners right there too, unbelievable."

Although both became law in 2013, the Department of Human Services has until July 1 to implement changes.

Tracy told WREG, "The Department is already working on that, notifying businesses that it will go into play and the businesses will be penalized if they allow people to do it."

Businesses can be fined a thousand bucks for the first penalty and $5,000 for a third.

Cardholders have to pay back fraudulently used money and could be suspended from the program for too many violations.

"They have the ability to identify and watch when those cards are swiped and if they are swiped in a place that is illegal," added Senator Tracy.

A DHS spokesperson told WREG the Department's Inspector General couldn't fit an on camera interview into her schedule during the time requested to explain.

She says DHS has a unit that monitors transactions, looking for patterns and potential fraud, and they're currently researching ways to literally block fraudulent transactions at the point of sale.

She told WREG that DHS has already notified businesses, EBT recipients, and recently held rule making hearings across the state.

We checked and some liquor store owners already have posters up, and other stores that also accept EBT have gotten letters from DHS.

"I think this will help cut down on the fraud of the EBT card," says Senator Tracy.

In addition to flat out fraudulent purchases, we also found some that seemed fairly questionable.

For example, there were hundreds of dollars worth of cash purchases with cash back at gas stations next to the casinos, the same at tobacco shops, as well as ATM withdrawals on Beale Street.

To report EBT fraud, call 1-800-241-2629.


  • Terrie

    Nowhere in my comments do I say ‘all blacks’ are on food stamps. You people just are so defensive! Yes ! YOU people as in blacks because so far only blacks have attacked me. I don’t care who is on food stamps. AGAIN, ( I sure have to make things simple for you people) they are stealing money left & right and the higher ups know this but do not have the nads to stop it!!! . That’s wrong. Jesus!

  • snowbeastsareuglyandstink

    Revolution you got that loudmouth devil terrie reaching for her meth pipe looking at all those roaches running in her double wide hehe

    • hateliberalcommies

      @snow b * t c h: that’s all you spout,,old junk about a meth pipe? why don’t you got back to your wings and moonpies..

      • On the level

        Funny you spoke about wings and moon pies. The truth is White people each just as much wings than anyone. That’s the reason why wings cost more than steaks. It’s call supply and deman

  • snowbeastsareuglyandstink

    Terrie take your hiding like a good girl now! Lol yes there is abuse but you and your ilk act like every problem is attributed to blacks/minorities what makes you think blacks like thugs and foolishness i live off dexter and i see ratchness from every race but especially snow beast

    • Terrie

      Ok Rev, I’m done laughing now & thanks. You sounded like a preacher on a hot Sunday in the ghetto. Now, whats this about race war? Jesus being black? No one knows that to be true and there’s no way of finding out. Next.
      As for being raped, beaten and forced into anything, yeah I guess someone’s way of thinking could be off but YOU said it I didn’t……(ha) and besides, who cares? That was so many years ago it no longer matters except for those who continues to live in the slop, rolling around in it getting it all over them breathing it & preaching it until everyone starts to wonder what the subject was again.? You’re brainwashed. Next.
      I hear chirping…..hmmmmmmmmmmmm child.

  • Observant citizen

    Checks and ebt cards for votes! And you all should stop questioning snow beast, I’m sure she’s an EXPERT when it comes to welfare and food stamps from experience

      • Observant citizen

        You can just call me daddy since I feed, clothe and house your sorry a$ As I have since you were hatched. Unlike like my working tax paying father did me. Want to duel? Bring it. You will be up long past your bedtime little boy cause I will school you like a small child.

  • That's Right

    The ones on here that have said that the article is wrong is black and doesn’t want it too stop. I don’t care white or black they need to stop welfare. Tired of paying for lazy idiots.

  • Linda Adams

    I’m have an EBT , it is used ONLY for food. More investigtions
    Should be done on selling EBT’s to. Also they have bank accounts
    In other people’s names in order to get stamps.
    They’re on disability , not suppose to work but works 40 to 48
    Hours a week and make $ 10.00 an Hour and gets
    $ 300.00 in EBT. I get $ 50.00 in EBT try making a month of meals
    On that. All should be drug tested, alot of times that’s where the money
    Is going.

    • Thedasout

      If the truth be told a lot of yall had different daddies and don’t know it,going all your life believing the lie your momma told you. She put you on another man couldn’t tell you, your daddy your uncle or your granddaddy.

  • tngrandma

    I say go back to the way it use to be. Stop giving them these cards. Go back to where they had the paper food stamps that are only able to be used at food stores. I don’t care if they are embarrassed by using them or not.

  • Driller

    I agree with TNGrandma…let them start using the paper food stamps again. EBT makes it too easy. As to Black Power, that is why Memphis is a crumbling community because of that mentality. And as to the overall entitlement attitude created by our President to sure up his Voter Base by tripling food stamps during his administration, God help the Bill Paying taxpayer!!!

  • On the level

    Nancy why don’t you take your angry a$$ and go take your money back. It’s not like you got that much that you have to cry about. There are a lot of people that works at fast food, diners, Fed EX, UPS,. that don’t work full time and they qualify for the benefit. But I bet you don’t have a problem with people that serve you at those place. I se with your responses your computer must be new and you trying to break it in.

  • chris

    Why chase all the small fish of the waste and abuse of tax payer money? What about the corporations or politicians? You sheepeople let the media play games with class warfare. Why worry about a $100.00 in EBT cash when 1%, politicians and corporations are robbing us for billions daily. This is America, we should be able to feed everyone. The Media is distorting us to the real problem…

  • Peter

    These monkeys will drink their quarts of beer and buy $5000 worth of rims, before they take care of their 7 kids and run down house. Oh that be full of pet roaches. Y’all love y’all some pet roaches.

  • Russ Brown

    This is nothing new. I can remember when food stamps come in a book and even back then stores would give a person $.50 on the dollar. Nothing was ever done then, and I’m sure nothing will come out of this investigation. It’s not only the EBT cards that are being abused, but the Tenncare program is also being raped by both doctors, clinics, and prescriptions. If the people with the power to do something about this fraud would open their eyes and actually cared they could put an end to this and save the honest taxpayers a ton of cash.

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