Thousands of Central Ohio moms and dads depend on food assistance benefits to feed their families.
In this report, NBC 4 Investigator Tom Sussi will show you how drug dealers and addicts are cheating the system on your dime. And, what your state lawmakers are doing to try to stop it.
Sussi met a 25-year-old heroin dealer and addict who makes more money selling dope than many of you will ever earn. He told Sussi he can easily make $1,500 to $2,000 a week.”
The ex-felon said he also gets about $194.00 a month in food assistance benefits. He said he uses them to buy his favorite snacks like Mountain Dew, Doritos, and Cookie Crisp.
Ohio Representative Tim Schaffer (R-77th District) said, “Our welfare system from a generous taxpayer is being abused.”
Rep. Schaffer is the sponsor of House Bill 50. If passed, food debit cards will have the recipient’s photo on it just like your driver’s license. He said, “The photo will add a tremendous amount of security and deterrent to sell these food cards for drugs and other illicit materials.”
He said his main concern is making sure kids who need food benefits get them, instead of their guardians who sell and trade them for drugs. “We can’t let these kids suffer,” he said.
Sussi recently spent time with three drug dealers and addicts in Circleville. They said food assistance benefits are sold and traded for drugs “all the time.”
One 31-year-old heroin addict and drug dealer said many of her customers are on welfare and have children. “I just got a phone call earlier somebody wanting to sell $30 worth of food stamps for a berry.”
A “berry” is one hit of Mexican black tar heroin, enough to fill up a syringe. It goes for about $15 bucks on the streets.
Sussi asked her, “In a given week how many calls will you get from people wanting to sell their food stamps so they can buy dope?” She said, “You probably get four or five calls at least a week.”
“These people are buying heroin from food debt cards or money they’ve gotten rather from selling food debt cards,” said Rep. Schaffer. “And it’s worsening the crisis for Ohio families.”
Another drug addict and dealer Sussi interviewed said he received about $124.00 a month in food assistance benefits.
The four-time convicted felon said selling dope helps him supplement his income and support his drug habit. He figures he makes about “2,000 a week” selling drugs.
Sussi asked if he ever sold his food assistance benefits to buy drugs. “Yes, I have.”
The heroin addict and dealer we told who uses his food assistance benefits to buy snacks said, “You get 50 cents on the dollar. So, if I’ve got a $100 in food stamps, I’ll sell them for $50 cash.”
He explained to Sussi how it works. The seller lends the buyer their food debit card and gives them their PIN number. The buyer then goes to the grocery store and buys food or snacks.
Ohio Job and Family Services investigates welfare fraud. A spokesperson said buying, selling and trading food stamps is a crime. Those caught can lose their welfare benefits and face criminal charges.
Rep. Schaffer said, “You can’t debate the fact that they are in the hands of drug dealers.”