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Welfare Debit Card Fraud Uncovered

March 28, 1997| Associated Press

HOUSTON — Touted as the way to reduce welfare fraud, electronic debit cards are only as good as the people who accept them, Houston undercover officers discovered.

Police opened their own convenience store and, if asked, gave cash instead of food to welfare recipients with the cards.

They got their first request in a few days and after 10 weeks, 225 people allegedly wanted in on the deal, police said Wednesday.

Gordon Hardy of the Texas Department of Human Services said it was unknown how much money is diverted in the program.

Eighty-eight people have been charged; 79 cardholders are under review by prosecutors and another 58 are in the process of being charged.

Penalties range from probation to up to 10 years in prison. The cardholders also lose their cards.

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