Reading, PA – State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) hosted a press conference with State Inspector General Bruce Beemer to heighten public awareness of welfare fraud and announce a new enforcement initiative to stop the illegal sale of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards.
“Unfortunately, welfare fraud is an issue in my district,” Schwank said. “It is my hope that we protect these dollars and ensure these programs are being used for what was intended, helping the most needy.” Schwank noted that in fiscal year 2016-2017 there were 768 Office of State Inspector General (OIG) investigations into welfare fraud in Berks County alone.
“We don’t know the reasons someone might sell their SNAP card,” Schwank said. “They may need cash for rent, a repair, or, sadly, they may be struggling with an addiction and use the cash to buy drugs.”
Earlier this year, Act 29 became law and provided the OIG with original jurisdiction over criminal statutes relating to public benefit fraud. The law also gave the OIG the ability to issue subpoenas or search warrants and partner directly with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
“Selling SNAP cards to merchants for cash is a crime which happens in Reading, and cities like it, every day. The merchants who buy these cards for pennies on the dollar prey on the vulnerable and literally take food from the needy,” Beemer said. “With the Senate’s help, my office now has new enforcement tools to prosecute this kind of trafficking in public benefits. I look forward to joining Senator Schwank to announce our new enforcement efforts in Berks County and across Pennsylvania.”
Thursday’s press conference was Beemer’s first stop in educating the public about welfare fraud and how to report and stop it. If you suspect fraud you can report it via phone at 1-800-932-0582 or make an online complaint using the “Report Fraud” section of the OIG’s website.
“The State Inspector General’s Office is now ready, willing and — thanks to the legislature and the governor — able to vigorously enforce these provisions of the law,” Beemer said.