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Jeff Atwater announces “Cash for Cards” food stamp fraud operation

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Two Orlando residents accused of siphoning thousands in food stamp benefits from the government were arrested by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, Florida chief financial officer Jeff Atwater announced.

“Today, two criminals found themselves exactly where they belong, and that’s behind bars,” Atwater said. “By stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in public assistance benefits, they’ve stolen from the state of Florida and from every Florida taxpayer whose tax dollars support critical safety net programs. With their arrests, I hope a message is sent to other criminals who may wish to engage in similar crimes: Florida will not tolerate fraud in any shape or form.”

Authorities say Eurick Fenot Jr. and Quinteria Williams had filed hundreds of online applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits using stolen identities and had received more than $200,000 in benefits before they were arrested as part of “Operation Cash for Cards,” a joint investigation by OCSO and the Department of Financial Services.

Officials said Fenot and Williams had completed more than 800 applications for public assistance using 684 stolen identities and a network of Orlando area addresses. Once they received benefit cards, they were converted to cash by an Apopka grocery store, whose involvement in the scheme is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Police said they had been tracking the pair for a year, when DFS investigators were tipped off to a large amount of assistance applications coming in from the Florida Department of Children and Families. Fenot and Williams were booked on charges of Public Assistance Fraud, Organized Scheme to Defraud, Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information, Grand Theft of More Than $100,000, Aggravated White Collar Crime, and Racketeering. If convicted, they could each face up to 30 years in prison.

“Any public assistance monies siphoned away in a fraud and identity scheme from families and children in need is a crime against our entire community,” OCSO Chief Deputy Larry Zwieg said. “We stand together with chief financial officer Atwater to pursue and arrest those responsible and bring them to justice.”

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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