An Illinois woman has pleaded guilty to felony theft of nearly $22,000 in food stamps. Ebony Martin, 34, was still employed as a case worker for the Illinois Department of Human Services in Villa Park when she rigged a food stamp scheme with her boyfriend, reports The Daily Herald’s Josh Stockinger.
Using bogus Social Security numbers, she inflated benefits by pretending her boyfriend had four children he didn’t, and reportedly collected $21,866 in food stamps in less than a year. The couple then resold the food stamps to friends and family at half-price.
“She was making a profit on top of defrauding the government,” prosecutor Diane Michalak told Stockinger.
Now Martin has been ordered to return the funds and faces a month in jail and three years of probation. A hot tip to the Illinois Inspector General led police to investigate her desk, where she kept the files.
Food stamp scams making headlines are nothing new, but they underscore the recession’s harsh impact on consumers and reveal deeper cracks in the system. In $1 million lottery winner Amandy Clayton’s case, it took the state of Michigan seven years—and the help of a Detroit WDIV reporter—to discover that she’d been juicing a $200 monthly food stipend from the government.
Currently, the number of Americans using food stamps is at a record high of 46 million, with program-related fraud costing the country $750 million annually, according to the USDA.
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