Retailers Trained to Spot Food Stamp Fraud Amid USDA Crackdown

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A nationwide crackdown on food stamps hits the Natural State.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture came out with new steps to fight fraud in the federal food stamp program Thursday. The actions include giving the department new authority to both permanently disqualify and fine retailers who traffic in food stamps and requiring states to make use of federal databases, including prison and death records, to ensure that food stamp benefits go to those who are eligible, according to a report from CBS News.

One in four Americans receives assistance.

Griffith’s Family Meat Market in Fort Smith started serving up cold cuts almost 27 years ago.

“We do steaks, any kind of specialty meat you want,” said Nancy Markham, owner.

Markham estimates more than half of their customers rely on food stamps, but not everyone is honest.

“We have people that try to sell their food stamps or they’ll stand in the parking lot and sell their food stamps to their landlord or their friends for cash,” she said.

Markham says they are trained to spot people trying to cheat the system.

“We had to actually watch a video," Markham said. "We had to read the material that the state sent us.”

The meat market has the rules posted right behind their register, so people know what they can and cannot purchase with their benefits.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services has special investigations and fraud units who find people taking advantage of the program.

“The special investigations unit will actually go out and verify the information that was provided to us by a client,” said Amy Webb, Director of Communications for the Department of Human Services.

Last year DHS says they found more than 300 cases of fraud.

“We want these assistance dollars to go to the people who need them,” said Webb.

If something sounds fishy, Markham says they refuse service at the meat market.

DHS says if their investigators catch someone stealing, the case might be turned over to a prosecutor, the person may have to repay the money, or the client could be banned from the assistance program.