State and federal authorities said this week that 22 people have been arrested in South Florida and charged with fraudulently receiving more than $13 million through food-stamp trafficking.
The people arrested were small retail vendors, with fraudulent transactions alleged to have occurred at the Opa-Locka Hialeah Flea Market.
The case focuses on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is better known as food stamps.
The vendors are alleged to have run food-stamp beneficiaries' Electronic Benefit Transfer cards through a computerized system for inflated amounts, according a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Florida.
They would then pay the beneficiaries in cash a portion of the amounts charged to the cards and profit from the rest.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said beneficiaries in most cases did not receive food or other eligible items in the transactions.
"Criminals are always looking for a way to make an easy buck," said Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office was part of the investigation. "Sometimes, they will target these government programs. This is really unfortunate, because these programs are designed to serve a specific purpose. When they attack the integrity of those programs, not only are they taking away benefits from people who have been entrusted with them, but they essentially steal from the Florida taxpayers."