Comanche Co. DHS Speaks on Food Stamp Fraud - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Comanche Co. DHS Speaks on Food Stamp Fraud

COMANCHE CO., Okla_ A Comanche County woman's alleged food stamp fraud is shedding light on an underlying problem within the Department of Human Services' program.

The district attorneys office recently filed charges against Alana Buckner of Lawton, after she was accused of cheating DHS out of nearly $14,000 in food stamps. The department said they work hard to prevent this type of fraud, but every now and then, someone finds a way. 

There are a little over 20,000 recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, here in Comanche County. Fraud cases like Buckner's account for less than 1% of the active SNAP cases. Financially, these cases don't affect other recipients, but they do affect the integrity of the program. 

DHS said thousands of people visit their site to apply for food stamps. Jeff Zachary said it's not that simple; employees work hard to do their due diligence.

"We verify income through check stubs, and we also have data matches for unearned income," Zachary said. "Then, we subscribe to some services where we have security level to get in and find out what the payments are."

Zachary admits that these measures are not always foolproof. He said if fraud is suspected, the case is turned over to the DHS' Office of Inspector General and could make its way to the District Attorney's Office.

He said that although food stamp scams don't affect the funding for valid recipients, they damage public perception of the program.

"When the case achieves notoriety, I think the public has a tendency to believe that maybe fraud is wide spread in these programs, but it's not," Zachary said.

Recipients like Kim Johnson said she knows how that feels. The public perception of those on the program can be harsh, and Buckner's alleged scam makes it that much worse.

"There are people like me out here that really need the benefits," Johnson said. "Now, we can't get them because of what people like them are doing. I think they should punish them to the full extent. I really do."

Just this week, the Comanche County District Attorney's Office filed obtaining food stamps by fraud charges against Alana Buckner of Lawton. Prosecutors say she scammed DHS of almost $14,000 from 2010 to 2012. If convicted, she faces up to seven years in prison, but DHS officials say they'll work to get their money back via payment plan or wage garnishment.

"The SNAP program is to help increase to food source of the family, and to meet the nutritional needs of the family," Zachary said. "We strive to make sure that's in fact what it's doing. We discourage anyone from applying where they're not going to share all the information with us. If someone applies and they don't give us factual information, most generally, it will come to light at some point."

The District Attorney's Office said they see about three of these cases a year. They also see trafficking of food stamps cases, where people buy food stamp cards from recipients or buy the food with the card and then sell it. That is also a felony crime.

As for Buckner's case, she pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday. She's scheduled to be back in court in July.

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