Beshear admin: $4 million in fraud “not an overwhelming problem”

Food stamp fraud and bureaucratic mismanagement cost Kentucky taxpayers $4 million – an issue that a spokesperson for Governor Steve Beshear’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services called “not an overwhelming problem.”

News stories reveal a startling, overwhelming pattern of assistance fraud, contrary to what Beshear’s bureaucrats say:

    • In November, WKYT in Lexington reported that police arrested two men for food stamp fraud. The brothers, who own convenience stores, allegedly purchased the program’s Electronic Benefit Cards from recipients at half-price. According to police, the brothers then would use the full benefits to buy goods from their stores.
    • In October, the Corbin Times-Tribune reported that two women were indicted for program assistance fraud. The indictments allege they fraudulently collected over $16,000 in food stamp benefits.
    • Also in October, an employee of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was charged with two counts of assistance program fraud by an employee, and a benefits recipient was charged with two counts of scheming to defraud an assistance program. The state employee allegedly helped the recipient fraudulently obtain more than $10,000 in benefits.
    • In August, the London Sentinel-Echo reported that three food stamp recipients allegedly received fraudulent benefits totaling $23,000.
    • In January, LEX18 disclosed that Lexington police arrested and cited “close to ten people for an illegal trade exchanging food stamps for drugs.”

WKYT reported that the very agency that oversees the program was the source of 25% of cases of benefits overpayment. The agency estimated another 25% “were a mix of intentional program violations or suspected program violations” – or simply, benefits assistance fraud.

According to the agency, another 50% of overpayments are the result of “inadvertent” errors on the part of recipients and applicants.

Republican State Representative Robert Benvenuti of Lexington, who investigated food stamp fraud from 2004 to 2007 as Inspector General for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, expressed concern about assistance fraud and the cost to Kentucky taxpayers.

“Not properly policing these programs for fraud, waste, and abuse is disrespectful to the taxpayer and puts the truly vulnerable at greater risk,” said Benvenuti. “These programs must be very carefully administered and we must do the things necessary to expand our economy, create jobs, and better our educational system with the goal of reducing dependence on government.”

At least Representative Benvenuti is interested in looking out for Kentucky taxpayers and for effectively helping those who are less fortunate and who genuinely require assistance. It’s unfortunate, however, that Governor Beshear’s agency, which is responsible for helping administer the food stamp program, believes that costing Kentucky taxpayers $4 million is “not an overwhelming problem.”

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