A total of $1.5 million in welfare benefits and food stamps that Los Angeles County allotted for people who cannot afford basic essentials eventually wound up in Las Vegas.
According to CBS Los Angeles, about $6,000 of that money was withdrawn from ATMs at casinos in Clark County, Nev.
From January 2012 through July 2013, the network found that those receiving welfare spent about $4.6 million, part of which was withdrawn at ATMs in Anchorage, Alaska; Las Vegas; Shreveport, La.; and Greenville, Miss., casinos. Taxpayer money also made its way to bars and liquor stores across the country.
CBS reported that the money comes through electronic benefit transfer cards (EBT), which are re-loaded every month. The EBT card, an electronic version of food stamps, has strict rules on how the money can be spent. However, the money can be turned into cash at most ATMs.
During the aforementioned time period, nearly $35,000 was spent in New York City, $15,000 in Miami, $4,600 in the Virgin Islands, $32,000 in Chicago and $12,000 in Hawaii. But one-third of all money, totaling $1.5 million, ended up in Vegas.
CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein spoke with the person responsible for the L.A. County welfare program, Lashonda Diggs. She say that her department investigates the same out-of-state data that the network obtained, along with the names of food stamp recipients, to prevent fraud.
One critic of the welfare program, Rep. Ed Royce of Rowland Heights, says the state has been put on notice for the past two years about stopping fraud but nothing has been done yet.
“Right now, with thousands of cases of abuse and no follow-up for the past two years, the word is getting out that you can get away with abusing the program,” Royce said.
CardPlayer.com also contended with the CBS2 investigation noting that there is no proof that any of the $1.5 million was spent on gambling or alcohol.
CBS2 reached out to L.A. County for more information on how many people have lost their benefits for wasting welfare money, but never received a response.