Aberdeen bar suspected in DSHS fraud case
On Wednesday, the Department of Social and Human Services, along with the Grays Harbor Drug Task Force, Aberdeen Police and Washington State Liquor Control Board, served a search warrant at the NW Passage in South Aberdeen.
Officials suspected Richard “Dick” Lantz, the owner of the business, of having DSHS clients purchase items with their EBT cards, and purchasing the items in cash for the business at a lower price.
The investigation began in August of 2012 when local grocery stores first reported to DSHS suspecting the fraud. During their investigation, investigators witnessed Lantz accompany EBT clients to various stores and purchase commercial sized items.
Steven Lowe, Senior Director in the Office of Fraud and Accountability told KXRO that several stores were used during this crime. “We got great assistance from local grocery stores.”
Investigators witnessed Lantz purchase over $850 worth of items at local stores. After talking with staff at each store, it was discovered that many either suspected his actions or was aware of what Lantz was doing. One worker, when described of the investigation and before given a name, referenced Lantz saying “Oh, you mean Dick?”. That worker told investigators that the store was well aware of the activity, saying that most of the clients appeared to be homeless and staff knew that the food items were not meant for them.
During the warrant search, 4 EBT cards and numerous items were found inside linked to the investigation. Any canned foods were documented and seized by DSHS. Any perishable foods at the business were documented and donated to local food banks.
The EBT cards at the scene are linked to accounts of people who are in a need of the assistance program.
The Grays Harbor Drug Task Force assisted during the search warrant. During the investigation, prescription pills were found inside the building.
DSHS is conducting an investigation on the claims. The Task Force will conduct a separate investigation on the drugs.
Food Stamp Trafficking and Unlawful Redemption of an EBT card is a Class C Felony, which carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, a fine of $10,000 or both.
No arrests have been made.
If you know of fraud involved in DSHS services, you can report it at 1-800-562-6906.