It's all a part of a state wide effort to crack down on food stamp fraud. The two women on S.N.A.P. (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) who were arrested today put the Mississippi Department of Human Service’s (M.D.H.S.) total arrests at 36 total arrests in the past year for S.N.A.P. fraud. This morning's sleet and freezing temperatures didn't slow down these officers from a coast wide sweep, targeting people accused of food stamp fraud. The first stop: Courtenay Avenue in Pass Christian where they arrested Robin Threlkel. These arrests are the result of the teamwork of local law enforcement across the state. Kenneth Palmer, M.D.H.S. Director of Fraud Investigations, says, "We're working where the local law enforcement is a thing we do, and they are greatly appreciated in helping us with this." S.N.A.P. is a state program created to help people who don't have enough money to buy food. M.D.H.S. leaders say the system has been abused by some recipients. They say participants cheat the system by lying about how much money they make or by trying to get cash back for their benefits. The program integrity for the fraud division says they are the stewards of tax payer dollars.
Palmer also says, "We want the tax payers to know that we are out here, and the benefits are here for people that need them and qualify for them." The second sting of the day took place in Hancock County. Debora Harvey was arrested and charged with committing S.N.A.P. fraud. Police believe she stole almost 16,000 dollars of tax payers’ money by abusing the S.N.A.P. system. Like others, if convicted, she will lose her benefits, face possible jail time and could have to pay back hefty fines and restitution. Authorities say they expect to make more arrests in our area soon as they continue to crack down on this type of fraud. The M.D.H.S. encourages anyone with information to call the fraud hotline at 1-800-299-6905.