A 21-year-old Bradenton man was arrested recently and charged with multiple crimes in Manatee County, including unauthorized use of public assistance for selling his food stamp card on Craigslist. This is the first known arrest in Florida resulting from a collaborative effort of state agencies and local law enforcement to monitor social media sites for public assistance fraud.
The arrest was a collaboration of the Manatee Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Children and Families, which determines food stamp eligibility, and the Department of Financial Services, which investigates public assistance fraud in Florida.
“We appreciate the hard work of our partners in pursuing this case and ensuring that those who defraud the government are brought to justice,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “We want people to know that it is illegal to buy and sell food stamp cards, and we will be working with law enforcement across the state to continue combatting this crime.”
DCF determines eligibility for food stamps and other public assistance programs. Our ACCESS Integrity and Benefit Recovery programs verify information so that only those truly in need are getting this federal financial assistance and also work to recoup money that was distributed fraudulently. DCF and DFS regularly monitor social media sites, including Craigslist and Facebook, to investigate fraud.
“The fraud in Florida’s public assistance programs costs honest Floridians millions each year,” CFO Jeff Atwater said. “The collaborative work across multiple law enforcement, state, local and national agencies is key to putting these criminals behinds bars. These efforts keep dollars from those who cheat the system and help protect those who need it most. I’m proud of the work done by everyone involved in this case.”
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested Eddie Gentsch, 21, last week and charged him with communicating to obtain fraudulent property, possessing identification of another person without consent, exploitation of an elderly person, and unauthorized use of public assistance.