LePage: Data Shows Rampant Welfare Fraud

Rob Poindexter

Updated 3 months ago

Tuesday, the governor’s office released startling new data they say proves that welfare fraud in Maine is a big problem.

According to data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services, Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards (EBT) issued in Maine have been used in 46 other states.

The data also shows that EBT cards have been used in thousands of smoke shops, bars, sports pubs and even strip clubs including Diamonds in Bangor.

According to a statement released by the governor’s office:

“Data released shows that since January 1, 2012 more than 3,000 transactions were made at more than 22 “smoke shops” in Maine, which sell primarily cigarettes and other tobacco products. There are several examples of individuals using their EBT cards to spend hundreds of dollars at a time at liquor stores in Maine. One liquor store in New Hampshire had more than a thousand transactions totaling nearly $8,000.

There are nearly 650 transactions at retail establishments that sell primarily alcohol, such as bars and sports pubs. The data also shows that EBT cards were used at strip clubs in Maine. Transactions using cash benefits at these locations are prohibited under state and federal law.

EBT Cards issued in Maine have been used in all 50 states. There are examples of Maine benefits being used in 46 states by individuals that had been out of Maine for over a year.”

Transactions using cash benefits at these locations are prohibited under state and federal law.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves had this reaction:

“No one wants to see funds meant for struggling families abused. State law already forbids EBT cards from being used at liquor stores. If this list is verified, it’s time to take action,” said Speaker Eves. “The question for the governor is will he prosecute or politicize it? Democrats will continue to support good-faith efforts to crack down on fraud and abuse.”

Governor LePage calls the numbers “eye opening” and asks anyone who knows about welfare fraud to call the fraud hotline at:

866-348-1129


  • Justin Russell

    This is disgusting. It’s people like this that ruin the system for people that don’t abuse it.

  • Rob Grant

    Here’s my thought… These are all electronic transactions and keyed to the people that were issued the funds as assistance… Cut them off and prosecute them for fraud… Don’t just claim everyone is doing it… Some people truly need the help and don’t in any way abuse the privilege afforded them… Go after the ones that are, or at the very least deny them the benefit they are abusing…

  • Julie Chicoine

    These cards are issued to specific people, who are supposed to read the rules & sign that they understand where the card is prohibited…. PROSECUTE them!!! Also…. “There are examples of Maine benefits being used in 46 states by individuals that had been out of Maine for over a year.” How can an individual get benefits if they have been out of Maine for over a year??? This article makes my blood boil!! I work so these people can use their card in this manner???? Get after ‘em Gov. Lepage!! So far you are doing a fabulous job weeding “them” out!!

    • Credi

      LePage hasnt done anything about it. These numbers were from 2012. He only brings it up now due to the election. It has been a problem since the program started. He is merely trying to score political points, he wont do anything about it besides complain, nor does he have any ability to do so.

      • Julie Chicoine

        Bull$^&% !! Lepage has don a MAJOR crackdown on welfare fraud!! These numbers were SINCE 2012.

    • CletusSnowe

      In some cases, the EBT cards are used to distribute child support from parents who chose to not pay it directly to the (custodial) parent. It’s not welfare..it’s actual child support. It’s not a stretch that some of those children may have moved out of the state while the parent legally bound to pay child support remains in Maine. Not saying it’s true in every case, but it certainly accounts for SOME of those out-of-state transactions and card-holders.

  • MimiOfTwoGirls

    Is anyone truly surprised at this article…I agree..you know whose name is on the card..block any further ACCESS to them ASAP!!

    • I_Broke_Your_Ban_Hammer

      Multiple family members can be on the same card.

      • CletusSnowe

        Not true. The EBT card is issued in ONE name (the “Head of Household”), even if it is used to distribute benefits to multiple family members. That would be the name that is printed on the card itself.

        • I_Broke_Your_Ban_Hammer

          A distinction without a difference. Thx for nothing.

  • bangorperson

    this is going on in every state not just the State of Maine. LePage just wants to take everything away from those in need.

    • Julie Chicoine

      Those in need PROBABLY aren’t the ones abusing it!! It’s the abusers that are ruining it for the ones in need!

    • p0rth

      Those who are truly in need have nothing to worry about…it’s the twenty something year olds that are perfectly capable of working but like the idea of free money that need to be held to the fire.

  • Earthling3

    While these data undoubtedly show abuse of the system, I’d like to know what percentage of the total benefits provided has actually been mis-spent. The dollar amounts cited in the article are not very impressive. If LePage wants to go after these people, that’s great,but let’s not get carried away spending hundreds of thousands investigating and prosecuting tens of thousands worth of violations.

    And what’s with “more than 22 smoke shops”? Why not just say 23? The way the Governor’s statement reads, it sounds like he’s trying to make a relatively small amount of abuse sound much bigger than it actually is. “Several examples” of “hundreds of dollars” – is that three times total in the whole year? “EBT cards were used at strip clubs” – why not say how many times? Is it because it only happened twice? Sorry, but after watching LePage in operation for the last three years, I am highly skeptical of his statements. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, but I seriously doubt that it’s as rampant as he would have us believe.

    • Dave Richardson

      My apologies ahead of time but I totally disagree with your statements. I think the only thing we agree on is our outlook on Gov. LaPage, I am not a fan of him myself but for you or anyone else in this state believes that this problem is not as serious as LaPage would have us believe, you are all pretty naive about the seriousness of this problem. This hasn’t just been going on since 2012 and the dollar amounts shown in the article is just a needle in a hay stack compared to the real amount of money wasted each year. This has been happening for more than 20 years, the state just doesn’t want to now or in the past put the time or energy into investigating all the complaints they received over the years, most are just blown off with absolutely no action taken whatsoever. Since the state has allowed this system to become a way of life for everyone who decides they just don’t want to go to work, there has been millions and ,millions of tax dollars wasted on fraudulent applications and misuse of the funds afforded to them. Now don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not saying everyone in the system is fraudulent or don’t REALLY need the help or that everyone misuses the funds they receive, there are a lot of people out there who do need it and should get it as they do, I guarantee you those people do not misused what they receive and are more then grateful for what they do receive, but there are thousands of people out there who should not be receiving a dime and what they do get they misuse. This IS a deeper problem folks that will eventually kill our state. Fraud is fraud, there are laws against fraud and penalties for committing fraud, and in my eye, if it cost the state $1000.00 to save $100.00 in fraud, I say spend it now, because eventually people will see that if they go into the system, they will be checked up on and if they are found to be not legitimately receiving the assistance given to them or if they are caught misusing the funds then and only then will this problem go away.

  • I_Broke_Your_Ban_Hammer

    LePage ginning up the base with 0.2% in questionable transactions. He’s growing desperate. He sees the Million $$$ Mike Michaud has raised and looks at his own, nearly empty war chest and figures a hail Mary is all he’s got. Well, pal. Shot your load a little early, huh?

  • p0rth

    It’s a simple solution in today’s computer based living. Implant code into the magnetic strip on the card that will not allow transactions that should be prohibited, i.e., cash back, liquor, cigarettes. A comprehensive list of allowable food items can also be made so that things such as junk foods and soda are rejected from the purchase. I hate nothing more than to be at the local Hannaford Bros. store behind an EBT card user watching over $100.00 dollars of my tax money going to crap. Then cash back is given and the same person walks to the liquor isle for her jug of coffee brandy and purchases it with the cash she just received from her EBT card.

  • Dave Richardson

    This comes to no surprise to me, this type of fraud has been going on a lot longer then just since 2012, its been going on since the 80′s and that’s the real reality. The state has given millions of dollars to people who were and are today abusing the system. There is only one way the state will ever truly stop it and that is to prosecute every single person who is caught misusing the assistance afforded them and committing fraud against the state. Fraud if punishable to years in prison terms along with high fines, I say it is time to set examples and prosecute every one of these people to the fullest extent of the law. I am sure I am only one of hundreds of thousands of hard working, tax paying people who are tired of seeing our tax dollars being pissed away on people who are not using the funds given to them to help feed their families and keep a roof over their families heads but rather help support their addictions. This state could save millions of dollars if they would just follow up on everyone who is on state assistance, they just might find more then they bargained for. (Case in point, these cards being used in 46 other states), really? Come on, people living in other states getting money from our state? This is just ridiculous to think people are getting my tax dollars and are not even living in the state, but then again, it comes as no surprise to me since this happened back in the late 80′s when my ex-wife who was living in Tennessee came to Maine for a 3 week vacation, went to the state and told them she was separated from her then husband, which she was not separated at all and the she was living back in Maine, she gave them an address to where she was living which was only an address as to where she was staying for the 3 weeks she was here in Maine, got approved for the assistance and returned to Tennessee, for months she was receiving assistance from Maine with the help of her sister who was cashing the checks and sending my ex the money and keeping the food stamps for herself since my ex couldn’t use the food stamps out of state. I am all but 100% positive my ex-wife was not the only person committing this type of fraud then and now, the sad part is that back then, the state came after the ex-husband, (me) to repay part of the money given as child support which I was already paying, when I tried fighting it I was told by none other than (at that time) the Commissioner of Human Services that yes, my ex-wife committed fraud which I had proved and yes, the state could go after her but its easier for the state to get the money from me. This is a Fact people! It happened and is obviously still happening today. The state assistance program was originally meant to be used as short term need for help to families who needed such help, today it has become a way of life. I know there are families out there who truly do need this assistance and are not abusing what they are given and those people are the ones who will be hurt by the people who are abusing the system but there are more people who are getting assistance under false pretenses and are abusing what is given to them. The sad thing about this story is that the state doesn’t want to exploit their misjudgements by given the real numbers of assistance abuse, the real amount of money that has actually been misused and the amount of people who are getting this assistance who shouldn’t be getting one cent because people know the state is not going to check up on them to make sure their need is legitimate. I very much dis-like Gov. LaPage and what he has not done for this state but if you want to get the people of the State Of Maine’s attention, lets not just talk about and announce the problem at hand, lets see some action, some real hard action and lets start getting some of this tax money back into the hands of the elderly who do desperately need the help and lets start doing something about the homeless! For once, you and the house should be on the same side on this topic and both sides should work together as one and fix this now! It is way past time for reform and action! “Talk is cheap, action can speak a thousand words”

  • esous

    A law was passed in late 2012 that prohibits there use in such places. If they are being used in such places the owners should be prosecuted as the are breaking the law .

  • ScottRobinett

    I’ve been reviewing the data. A few questions come to mind; first, why is there no process for monitoring usage? If I made a purchase for several hundred dollars, my credit card would be contacting me. This has happened several times to me and I greatly appreciate it. I’m not denying that there is abuse, but the system must have a way to monitor it and shut it down. for example, the one that caught my eye right off was over $1200 at a 7 Eleven.

  • OneOfTheCongreation

    It rampant welfare fraud or simply propaganda by the LaPage administration, You know news stories like this only hurt the children who are dependent on help from welfare for some of their meals. You might want to think twice about reporting this kinda of thing, ` THINK OF JUST WHO YOU ARE HURTING!

MENU