State Auditor: Prisoners, Dead People Got Food Stamps and Welfare Benefits

Categories: News
Matthew Hendley

State prison inmates and dead people received food stamps and welfare benefits paid out by the Arizona government, according to state auditors.

The Department of Economic Security's Division of Benefits and Medical Eligibility is tasked with assessing eligibility of Arizonans for the federal programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which resulted in $1.75 billion in payments statewide in 2012.

However, some of those payments should not have been sent out, as auditors found that benefits were sent to prisoners and the dead in some cases.

See also:
-Survey: 21 Percent of Arizonans Struggle to Afford Food

The audit didn't look into the total extent that either inmates or dead people were receiving benefits.

For example, auditors matched 13,920 names of state prison inmates with information matching people participating in the TANF or SNAP programs. Auditors took a closer look at 25 of those cases.

"One participant received benefits for 48 days totaling $200 during incarceration at the DOC, and the Division stopped the participant's benefits when it received notification of an active warrant for the participant from the Department of Economic Security's Office of Special Investigations," the report states. "However, the Division did not attempt to recover the overpayments."

Three of the 25 apparently were getting benefits for some or all the time that they were in prison, but auditors couldn't discern whether the inmates were actually receiving the benefits or whether identity theft was involved.

The other 21 were found to have received benefits only while they were not incarcerated.

According to the auditors, the Division of Benefits and Medical Eligibility has access to Maricopa County jail rolls, but not other counties or the state. So, only Maricopa County jail inmates get their benefits immediately cut off. The auditors recommended that the division use state prison and other county data to curtail that problem.

Again, the auditors don't know the extent of this problem, but in the 25 randomly selected cases, 16 percent of those involved payments that shouldn't have been made.

As for the dead, auditors took another sample, this time selecting 60 cases where it appeared that payments were authorized after a person's death. They were able to verify that 11 of them had received payments after their death, and nearly $1,000 was actually spent from the EBT cards in seven of those cases.

In the other 49 cases examined, no inappropriate payments were made. The auditors weren't able to figure out why these payments were made, but they didn't last for long, in any case, because a dead person can't apply for a renewal of their benefits.

The auditors also checked out a few other ways in which fraud or improper payments could occur, including the use of false Social Security numbers, large or out-of-state purchases, or state employees authorizing too much money for the benefits. None of those appeared to be issues.

As an aside, the report also mentioned new federal legislation that prohibits TANF program EBT cards from being used at liquor stores, strip clubs, casinos, and a few other places. The auditors only found such transactions at liquor stores in Arizona: 1,447 such transactions at "what appeared to be liquor stores," totaling $43,092.

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Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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Richard Dickson
Richard Dickson

The senators from Nebraska and South Dakota think people on food stamps are wild animals. There are 450,000 people in Nebraska on SNAP programs.


Do the State auditors know of the 300,000 plus cases from FAA that haven't been touched for processing?  The 6,000 cases from CPS are a drop in the bucket compared to this.  Does this qualify for the making of another state agency?


40 some years ago when I was in the army, there was a sgt. in payroll that had falsified another soldier and got paychecks for the non existent G.I. He did this scam for years and would have probably gotten away with it but when it came time to retire he tried to retire the non existent guy too and thats when he got caught. Don't know if he received his retirement benefits in Levenworth.   


I'd kind of like to know what the percentages are overall.  It's one thing to take 60 cases where death is suspected, and find 11 of them were fraudulent, but how does that stack up against the total population receiving assistance?  Otherwise it doesn't tell us much.

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider

A poorly run program by a badly mismanaged Arizona state agency.

Mary Grifford
Mary Grifford

Disgusting !! As usual the people that really need them probably didn't get them !!

Ben De Valk
Ben De Valk

Wow that's surprising !!! Betcha they are democrats too....( check voting records).....

fishingblues topcommenter

Fraud, waste and government incompetence is not just in Arizona.   

Keep voting for bigger and bigger government and you will get more and more government waste (not to mention more and more incompetence).


Not necessarily, Nathan.  There will always be those that try to scam the system, just like there will always be criminals that own guns no matter how tight you make the regulations for gun ownership. The important thing is these are being monitored.  I assume the scammers will be prosecuted since they are guilty of theft just as if they had robbed a bank. 

Releasing a report like this without any attempt to give us a look at the overall picture is a disservice to the public and the agency.  Nor do I believe that's what an audit is supposed to do.  How can anyone actually evaluate the effectiveness of an agency without looking at the entire picture? 

WhoKnows topcommenter

@fishingblues  Fraud, waste, and government incompetence is actually in the CHARTER of orgs like MCSO and Tommy HornieBoi's office....  Seems HornieBoi just got caught AGAIN for ripping off the public.....

MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Really WK?

Do you have a link to this latest HorniBoi bullshit?

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