MDEA testifies EBT cards are increasingly being found at drug crime scenes
AUGUSTA – Last month, Rep Wayne Parry (R) of Arundel introduced a bill designed to crackdown on the illegal trafficking of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in Maine. Authorities are increasingly finding EBT cards being used as currency for illegal drugs and other illegal activities.
Rep. Parry’s bill, LD 607 “An Act To Stop the Abuse of Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards” would do the following:
1. A person caught trafficking an EBT card would have their benefits suspended for one year for a first offense and at least 5 years for a 2nd or subsequent offense, with the penalties doubled if the benefits recipient trafficked the card in exchange for illegal drugs;
2. If an EBT card is found in the possession of a person other than the recipient and the person is arrested and charged for a drug offense, it creates a rebuttable presumption that the recipient trafficked the card for drugs;
3. A replacement electronic benefits transfer card must have a photograph of the recipient on the card.
4. The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to send a letter to all recipients of benefits under the statewide food supplement program of the amended penalty provision. The recipient is required to sign and return the letter acknowledging the recipient understood the letter.
“We only have a finite amount of resources to go around for those in need,” said Rep. Parry. “We must make sure those resources aren’t being wasted and we certainly should make sure they’re not being swapped for drugs. All too often, MDEA agents and police officers are finding EBT cards at drug busts. We can’t tolerate this sort of abuse of taxpayer dollars especially at the expense of families who are truly in need.”
At the public hearing on April 23, Matthew Cashman, a task force investigative supervisor to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA) testified about what he and his fellow officers in the trenches are seeing when it comes to EBT cards being used in the drug trade.
“During the past 11 months, a total of 40 State of Maine EBT cards in another s name were seized during 25 separate drug enforcement operations by the MDEA. Since early 2012, the MDEA s Western DTF has seized a number of these cards.” Cashman told members of the Health and Human Services Committee.
A work session on this bill is scheduled for Wednesday, May 19 at 1:00 in the Health and Human Services Committee, Room 209 in the Cross