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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: January 8, 2016 02:55 PM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Unauthorized Possession of EBT Cards issued for Cash and Food Assistance Benefits
I am introducing legislation to make the unauthorized possession of multiple electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards a criminal offense.

EBT cards are used to distribute both food and cash welfare benefits like a debit card. The trafficking of EBT cards is a huge problem due to drug dealers and unscrupulous retailers who trade them with the people to whom the cards are issued. Drug dealers accept the EBT cards as payment for drugs, using them to make food purchases or draws for cash through ATMs. Retailers exchange cash for the card’s food stamp credits, typically paying half the value of the EBT benefits in cash.

While buying or exchang EBT cards for cash or drugs is a crime now, local law enforcement in my district, as well as the Bureau of Fraud Prevention and Prosecution’s SNAP Trafficking Unit within the Office of Inspector General, have said making it a crime to possess the cards would be a great tool in fighting welfare fraud and deterring the use of them for drugs. The law now requires the cards to be actually used in a fraudulent manner which cannot be proven in the increasing number of cases being seen when someone is arrested for drugs and have multiple 10 EBT cards on them or a store is raided and the owner has a list written down of numerous EBT card numbers.

My bill will amend the Crimes Code to make it a third degree felony to possess three to 24 EBT cards or their numbers which have been issued to other individuals. Possessing 25 or more EBT cards or their numbers would be a second degree felony. Any licensed retailers who are guilty of the unauthorized possession of EBT cards will be reported by the Office of Inspector General to the US Department of Agriculture, which licenses the retailers.

Introduced as SB1131