New DSHS anti-fraud unit springs to life

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by CHRIS INGALLS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @cjingalls

KING5.com

Posted on June 10, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 10 at 5:41 PM

MARYSVILLE. Wash. -- A Marysville woman is facing charges for trying to sell her food stamp card on the Internet. She was caught by a new fraud-fighting squad at the Department of Social and Health Services, formed after a series of eye-opening stories by the KING 5 Investigators.

DSHS investigators heard that Tanisha Ouellette, 21, was offering to sell her food stamps to her Facebook friends.

An undercover investigator set up a meeting. A secretly recorded video shows a woman, that DSHS says is Ouellette, receiving $100 for her EBT card. That’s the debit-type card she was selling with $200 worth of food stamps on it.

"She was advertising her card, basically for 50 cents on the dollar," says Tulalip Police Chief John Goss.

DSHS has posted the video on YouTube.

Tulalip police officers were standing by in the Walmart parking lot to arrest Ouellette after the deal went down there on Wednesday.

"During the search incident to arrest, she had drug paraphernalia,” said Chief Goss.
 
The arrest follows the bungled case of Allen Jones,  a Mukilteo man selling his food stamps openly on Craigslist. It caught the eye of a constituent of State Senator Andy Hill.

"Out in the open on Craigslist. The first reaction was, 'This can't be real,'" Sen. Hill said in March.

Senator Hill's office tipped DSHS, which reported back later it couldn't find Jones. But the KING 5 Investigators did, in a report that revealed that DSHS replaces an average 30,000 food stamp cards a month for clients who claim they were lost or stolen.

"A number of drug dealers we arrest have multiple cards on them. It appears some of them are being used as cash to purchase drugs," said Chief Goss, echoing what several police officials have told KING 5 about the use of the cards in the drug trade.

DSHS also says Ouellette is receiving food stamps from the State of South Carolina.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Ouellette when reached Friday afternoon at her Marysville home.

DSHS has made several changes since KING 5’s series of stories called “Their Crime, Your Dime." In addition to an expanded fraud-fighting team, DSHS also placed limits on the number of times it will replace client’s EBT cards. And, a new law placing more restrictions on the improper use of the cards is expected to be signed by Governor Chris Gregoire next week.

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