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Military Families Among Thousands Suspected of Food Stamp Fraud

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The long lines for foodstamps following Fran
FAYETTEVILLE — Thousands of North Carolina families may have used Hurricane Fran as anexcuse to cheat the government. A review of people receiving emergencyfood stamps shows almost half didn't qualify, including more than2,000 state workers. The numbers are especially disturbing inFayetteville.

The state says it looks like many families did not tell the truth abouttheir income or hurricane losses. In Cumberland County, there arequestions surrounding 70% of the recipients, including hundredsof military families.

Last September, people waited in long lines for hours to receive food stamps.The government relaxed eligibility guidelines to help people hurt by HurricaneFran. Over one month, Cumberland County issued about $10 million in foodstamps-- five times what it would have handed out.

You won't find any long lines today, just people picking up their regularbooklets. They remember well what it was like here last fall. BerniceReuben says she's one of those who did tell the truth when thegovernment handed out emergency food stamps. Reuben had six smallchildren to feed and lost a freezer full of food.

Robert Alexander qualifies for food stamps, but skipped the long linesafter Fran. He thinks it's ridiculous so many people held out theirhands. Alexander believes many people took the government for a ride. Hesays people saw an opening and took it.

The state has asked county social service departments to investigatequestionable cases. Anyone caught cheating will have to pay restitutionand may face prosecution.

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