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DCFS investigating SNAP fraud after storms

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NEW IBERIA - State family services officials said Friday they're investigating possible food benefits fraud in Iberia Parish after recent severe weather.

Secretary Suzy Sonnier with the Department of Children and Family Services said people who lost power during the April 27 storms could get replacement money from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. Those who did had to have been without power for more than 24 hours to get the replacement benefits.

Sonnier said on May 7 nearly 500 people applied for the replacement benefits. According to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, though, only 91 customers in that area lost power for at least 24 hours.

"Having three times the number of applicants than could have possibly been eligible, sent up red flags for us," Sonnier said Friday.

One woman in East Baton Rouge Parish, who was denied assistance after losing power last week, is afraid other people are abusing the system.

"One lady, young lady asked me -  she did not know who I was, I could have been a police officer -  she asked me, did I want to buy some food stamps," said the woman.

The secretary said they're now working with the State Inspector General and local law enforcement to look into each of the applications. She said anyone found to have intentionally lied will be sanctioned for fraud, with first-time offenders losing benefits for a year, second-time offenders facing a two-year suspension and third-time offenders losing benefits permanently.

Sonnier said applications from other parts of the state will also be verified with local power providers. People who qualify can expect to receive replacement benefits within ten days after filing their application.

 

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