Pasco Grocery Store Raided, Accused of Food-Stamp Fraud
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies temporarily shut down Atomic Foods in Pasco Wednesday, the latest store to be targeted for allegedly being a part of a ring involving the illegal selling of food cards, or EBT's.
Pasco police assisted while officials from the state Department of Social and Health Services, USDA, Office of Inspector general and others searched Atomic Foods on North 4th Ave.
Tuesday one store employee was arrested. 40-year-old Rosa Maria Torres-Jimenez is accused of unlawful sale of food stamps and unlawful redemption (or acceptance) of food stamps.
While no further arrests were made in the raid Wednesday, officials continue the investigation. Previously, the Park-N-Pak store in Sunnyside was also raided earlier this week.
The EBT ( Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards are the debit card versions of the old paper food stamps. Both stores were raided because authorities believed either employees, or even the store themselves, were paying cash to "buy" these cards from welfare recipients.
Officials say the store might offer half the value of the card (or even less) but will give cash to the rightful owner. The store or persons can then turn around and utilize the card themselves. If it's the store participating in the scam, they also haven't sold any merchandise on the card, which saves them even more money.
The Pasco raid resulted in the seizure of at least NINE cards authorities believe were illegally traded. Surveillance cameras and other records are being used to try to determine the identity of the people using those cards.
Stores caught participating in such fraud can lose their right to sell or accept EBT transactions, which can cost them tens of thousands of dollars in lost business. The investigation continues, officials have not said if Atomic Foods will be stripped of it's EBT program.