BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said Friday that it would be hard to prosecute fraud cases against Louisiana residents who overspent food stamp limits during a computer crash last October.
"There's no evidence available as to who cashed the checks, who presented the card," Caldwell said. "Prosecutors are going to have a lot of trouble in taking the cases."
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1cso7LL ) that Caldwell also said no stores complained about the overspending or sought arrests, adding further difficulties to prosecution.
Louisiana's Department of Children and Family Services has started the administrative process to disqualify those who misused electronic benefits cards. Caldwell said that's the best approach.
Several Louisiana retailers allowed food stamp recipients to make unlimited purchases on Oct. 12, when the electronic card system was down and balances couldn't be checked. Neither state nor federal funds were lost, but retailers that allowed the purchases lost money if there were insufficient funds on the electronic cards.
So far, nine people who have admitted card misuse have been disqualified by DCFS from receiving benefits for a year, and the department is pursuing more, focused on the 500 largest cases involving $315,386 in overspending.
Caldwell's comments came after a meeting with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier and Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, about the overspending.
Vitter sought the meeting to press the case for action, including criminal prosecution, against those involved in what he called "outrageous and really worrisome" food stamp fraud.
Caldwell said his office does not have jurisdiction, but he has offered his office's assistance to local district attorneys.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com