SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Officials at the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services say no funds from the state were used during Saturday's food-stamp shopping frenzy, so there is no fraud to investigate.
Dozens of excited shoppers filled shopping carts at Walmart stores in Mansfield and Springhill, LA after word spread about the glitch. Shelves were emptied in both stores. When an announcement was made over the intercom explaining the food stamp system had been restored, many shoppers reportedly abandoned their filled carts in aisles. Videos that captured the chaos have gone viral online.
Many claim the cell phone video appears to show fraud and abuse, but the state sees it differently. Here's why: During these outages or glitches the retailer is responsible for making a phone call and establishing a limit for each customer using an EBT card. While most stores set a limit of $50 or $100, others, including those in Springhill and Mansfield, did not.
LA DCFS spokesman Trey Williams says Walmart is responsible for the resulting overages.
"Any theft that occurred did not occur from the state of Louisiana nor with taxpayer dollars, it was actually merchandise from these retailers. So it will be up to them, up to the retailers working with law enforcement to determine if they want to prosecute," Williams says.
The state's GPS based software does track everything from the name of the buyer, to the stuff they buy, and Williams confirms that DCFS is standing by to provide that information to law enforcement upon request.
Whether its used in this case or not, the software that gathers all that information has helped the state recover millions of dollars reportedly stolen in other cases. The state of Louisiana investigates nearly 3,000 cases each year. 800 SNAP benefits cases each year are canceled due to fraud and abuse.
Williams points out that those shoppers over the weekend who did take advantage of the glitch are only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands who use the system responsibly.
No plans are in place to prosecute shoppers who may have taken advantage of the situation on Saturday. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office tells KSLA News 12 that prosecution would be left up to DCFS, local police or the district attorney. However, the District Attorney of Bossier and Webster parishes, Schuyler Marvin, said he does not plan to charge those shoppers. We are working to find out if any charges will be filed in DeSoto Parish.