Central Florida couple arrested for food stamp fraud
$200K stolen from assistance program
ORLANDO, Fla. – A Central Florida man and his girlfriend stole nearly $200,000 in food stamp benefits using hundreds of fake IDs, according to state investigators.
Authorities arrested Eurick Fenot Jr. and Quinteria Williams at the home of Williams's mother Wednesday morning. Agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture also served a search warrant on an Apopka grocery store investigators believe the couple may have used in the food stamp scheme.
"Many Floridians rely on these benefits to put food on their table each night," said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. "They stole from hardworking Floridians whose tax dollars fund these needed programs in our communities."
According to state fraud investigators, Fenot and Williams used the stolen identities of about 600 Floridians to file fraudulent online applications seeking public assistance.
Although most of the 800 applications allegedly filed by the couple on the Florida Department of Children and Families website were stopped before benefits were paid, 182 of the fraudulent applications were processed, according to state officials.
"These suspects went to great lengths to circumvent the (security) processes we have in place," said Andrew McClenahan, DCF's Director of Public Benefits Integrity. "The efforts they went to in terms of scamming our workers was very extensive."
After obtaining Electronic Benefit Transfer cards from the state, investigators believe Fenot and Williams would take them to Los Primos Grocery and Meat Market in Apopka. Instead of buying food with the EBT cards, agents think a store employee working with the couple would pay them cash in exchange for a percentage of the benefit money.
"They'll take a bogus transaction amount, for example $200, and swipe the card," said Public Assistance Fraud Director Jack Heacock. "The merchant will pay the recipient $100, and $200 will be sent to the merchant's business account the next day."
No one associated with the grocery store has been arrested. That part of the case is still under investigation by the USDA.
"Fraud is the silent killer of the Central Florida economy," said Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton, whose office will be prosecuting Fenot and Williams.
If convicted of public assistance fraud, the couple could serve prison time. State officials said they will also seek restitution for taxpayers.
"If they win the lottery, we'll take their lottery winnings," said McClenahan. "These people will pay that money back."
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