[an error occurred while processing this directive]

I-Team Special Report: Bridge Card Abuse

Updated: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Bridge Card Abuse story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The I-Team is uncovering examples of new  Bridge Card abuse in West Michigan.

We uncovered dozens of examples of people buying booze and cigarettes with their cards right at the store register.

Bridge Card food and cash assistance is supposed to be used for the essentials, food, clothes, and what a family needs to get by. But receipts show what's actually being purchased.

All of the junk food purchases are bad enough, we found a well-balanced shopping spree of Windmill Cookies, soda, Oreos and bags of candy. A $50 bill paid by food assistance on a Bridge Card.

But what really stands out,  all of the alcohol and cigarettes people are buying with a Bridge Card.

The same shopper with the junk food also bought Irish Rose Wine and a box of Newport 100's. Those two items weren't paid for with food assistance but we can see, the cash register just switches to cash benefits and accepts the Bridge Card.

Receipts were sent to us by sources over the last three months, and we see this happening over and over again.

Like when someone bought Pall Mall light menthols and Pall Mall 100's. That $15 dollars was covered by cash benefits right at the register.

We went to DHS in Lansing to find out how this is possible.

"They're clearly told it is a violation of the program to use those benefits for cigarettes or alcohol or anything like that. They're not allowed to do that," says DHS Spokesman Bob Wheaton.

DHS says Bridge Card clients know they can't buy alcohol and tobacco, but representative Peter MacGregor says it's too easy.

"We're trying to make it more difficult, we've changed some laws we've worked with the banks that provide ATM’s...you can't buy liquor, you can't buy lottery tickets with your bridge cards but we know it's happening, how do we prevent that," says MacGregor.

MacGregor is the chairman of the committee that oversees DHS’ budget. He's says he's already given them more money to investigate fraud cases like this.

"There's a lot of people who have a huge need, but we have to also make sure those tax dollars are spent wisely and accountability is a huge issue."

But DHS says the technology doesn't exist that could screen for banned items at the register and stop the process that makes it so easy.

And allows people to buy a cart of groceries and then Hot Rod cigarette tubes and Rio pipe tobacco.

Or to just buy a Natural Ice 12 pack, and Marlboro Special Blends, all paid for by taxpayers through the Bridge Card.

"DHS does take abuse of assistance very seriously we have people that investigate these types of cases and get to the bottom of them…for other people who receive and need assistance it should be available to them and not for people who are abusing the system," says Wheaton.

DHS says someone caught doing what we found happening could lose their cash assistance for a year, but for now Bridge Card holders are mostly on the honor system, and we can see how that's going.

DHS tells us the stores themselves are under no legal obligation to restrict Bridge Card purchases.
comments powered by Disqus
advertisement

What do you want to see?

If you have a story idea for the I-Team, you can contact us using the form below or by calling 269-388-4612.
Please re-enter the code shown in the image below.

Business News

Last Update on October 22, 2014 17:29 GMT

CONSUMER PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer prices edged up slightly in September, with the overall increase held back by a third straight monthly decline in gasoline prices. The tiny gain was the latest evidence that inflation remains dormant.

The Labor Department says consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in September after having falling 0.2 percent in August. Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy, also rose 0.1 percent after no gain in August.

Over the past 12 months, overall prices are up 1.7 percent and core prices are up a similar 1.7 percent. Both increases are well below the 2 percent target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve. The absence of inflationary pressures has allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at record lows to boost the economy.

SOCIAL SECURITY-COLA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government says millions of older Americans who rely on federal benefits will get a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly payments next year.

It's the third year in a row the increase will be less than 2 percent.

The annual cost-of-living adjustment affects payments for more than 70 million Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees.

The government announced the increase Wednesday, when it released the latest measure of consumer prices. By law, the increase is based on inflation, which is well below historical averages so far this year.

Congress enacted automatic increases for Social Security beneficiaries in 1975. Until recently, the increases were rarely less than 2 percent.

AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- The U.S. government is adding more than 3 million vehicles to a rare warning about faulty air bags that have the potential to kill or injure drivers or passengers in a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday put out a new list of vehicles, increasing the number from 4.7 million to 7.8 million. The agency urged people to get their cars repaired if they're being recalled, especially in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

The air bag inflators made by parts supplier Takata can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are inflated. Safety advocates say at least four people have died from the problem.

The warning covers many models from BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

EBOLA MONITORING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal health officials are significantly expanding the breadth of vigilance for Ebola, saying that all travelers who come into the U.S. from Ebola-stricken West African nations will now be monitored for symptoms of illness for 21 days.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the program will begin Monday and cover visitors as well as aid workers, journalists and other Americans returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.

The program will start in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.

CDC Director Tom Frieden says state and local health officials will check daily for fever or other Ebola symptoms.

Passengers will get kits to help them track their temperature and will be told to inform health officials daily of their status.

J&J-EBOLA VACCINE

J&J to spend up to $200M on Ebola vaccine program

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- Johnson & Johnson will start safety testing in early January on a vaccine combination that could protect people from a strain of the deadly Ebola virus.

The health care products maker says it has committed up to $200 million to speed up and expand production of a vaccine program being developed by its Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.

J&J is developing the vaccine with the Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic. It involves a regimen in which two vaccines are delivered two months apart. The combination provided complete protection in animals against a virus strain similar to the one causing the current outbreak in West Africa that has killed thousands of people.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey, company says it will also determine whether its vaccine protects against the version causing the outbreak.

MORTGAGE RISK RULES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators are proceeding with new rules that ease guidelines for banks selling mortgage securities and could mean fewer borrowers will need to make hefty down payments.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to adopt the rules, which six federal agencies have been working on since 2011. Three other agencies adopted the rules Tuesday, and the Federal Reserve has scheduled a vote for Wednesday afternoon.

The rules govern the amount of risk banks must take on when they package and sell mortgage securities in a multitrillion-dollar market. In the final rules, the regulators have dropped a key requirement: a 20-percent down payment from the borrower if a bank didn't hold at least 5 percent of the mortgage securities tied to those loans on its books.

MINI-OVERSTATED GAS MILEAGE

DETROIT (AP) -- The U.S. government has told BMW to reduce the gas mileage estimates on window stickers of four Mini Cooper models.

Testing by the Environmental Protection Agency lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, discovered the overstated mileage.

The vehicles affected are the 2014 Mini Cooper three-door and Mini Cooper three-door S models with manual and automatic transmissions. BMW must cut the highway mileage by one-to-four miles per gallon depending on the model. Estimates for city driving and combined city and highway fuel economy also must be reduced.

The EPA says it audited the Mini gas mileage and came up with lower values than BMW, which makes the cars. It's the fourth time in the past two years that the EPA has found discrepancies in the gas mileage estimates provided by an automaker.

PEW-ONLINE HARASSMENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A new study confirms what many Internet users know all too well: Harassment is a common part of online life.

The report by the Pew Research Center found that nearly three-quarters of American adults who use the Internet have witnessed online harassment. Forty percent have experienced it themselves.

The types of harassment Pew asked about range from name-calling to physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking. Half of those who were harassed said they didn't know the person who had most recently attacked them.

Young adults -- people 18 to 29 -- were the most likely age group to see and undergo online harassment.

The survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 among 3,217 respondents.

advertisement