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Report: Felons, prisoners and overpayments in SNAP

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BATON ROUGE - Nearly 2,000 prisoners and drug felons received more than $1 million in food stamp payments during 2011 and 2012, according to a report from the Louisiana Auditor's office.

The state food stamp program, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), gave 1,761 incarcerated participants $1,107,740, the report says.

The auditor found 84 drug felons redeemed more than $100,000 they were ineligible to receive, and because of agency errors, the program overpaid $814,615 benefits in 2010 and 2011 fiscal years.

The report showed 3060 SNAP recipients used their entire 2012 benefits totaling more than $2 million in other states.

The auditor's office said the findings it released Monday were in order to evaluate the Department of Family and Children Services' management of SNAP in participant eligibility and fraud and also retailer fraud.

DCFS released a statement Monday but declined to talk to News 2 on camera.

According to the department, a new system will decrease the amount of abuse and it is taking the auditor's report and recommendations seriously.

"Over the past two years, DCFS has worked to modernize its systems with the launch of CAFÉ, which provides greater safeguards in determining eligibility such as data mining with our federal and state partners," DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier said. "As a result of this and other improvements, DCFS has seen its overall payment error rate improve to 4th best in the nation and continues to see its timeliness of cases above the national average. The Legislative Auditor's report cited areas where potential fraud could occur and DCFS agrees with all four recommendations provided in the report that could improve identification of participation fraud."

Sonnier added DCFS has begun working with state and federal partners in implementing the auditor's suggestions.

"DCFS takes seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of the resources provided. DCFS is reviewing all the cases cited in the report for potential fraud and will work with authorities to prosecute those who have purposely tried to defraud the system. We will also forward any cases involving retailers to the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service who monitors and investigates retailers," Sonnier said.




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