NewsChannel5 investigators uncover 44,538 red flags indicating food stamp fraud in Cuyahoga County

CLEVELAND - A 5 On Your Side investigation uncovered 44,538 Ohio food stamp recipients who reported 10 or more electronic food stamps cards lost or stolen during a five-year period.

"We see it a lot. It's not an immediate indicator of fraud. Some people are just reckless, but it is a red flag," said Chris Joseph, an agent with the Ohio Investigative Unit. Joseph investigates food stamp fraud in the Cleveland area.

NewsChannel5 investigator Sarah Buduson also found 268 of those Cuyahoga County food stamp recipients reported losing their cards between 40 and 47 times between June 2006 and March 2011.

"There's something bad going on here," said Dave Yost, Ohio Auditor of State.

Yost ordered state investigators to review how the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services manages the U.S. government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, after receiving information about benefits not being used by authorized recipients.

His office found more than 340,000 Ohio recipients reported a lost or stolen card in 2011. His office also found more than 17,000 recipients had received 10 or more new EBT cards.

An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation also uncovered the unusual items recipients purchased using food stamps.

Our full investigation into food stamp fraud and the illegal items being bought with your tax dollars airs tonight at 11 p.m. on NewsChannel5.

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