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By NWV News Writer Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
March 12, 2012

This week the United States Department of Agriculture's Inspector General, the agency’s in-house watchdog, disclosed in a report that many food-stamp recipients use their benefits to purchase items such as illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors

In fact, according to USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong, some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash.

While the Obama Administration promotes food stamps to a large number of unemployed or underemployed people, the food stamp assistance rolls are already higher than ever and with the enormous increase in recipients comes an increase in fraud and corruption that often accompanies an out-of-control government program, according to a non-profit Beltway watchdog organization.

A record 46.3 million people -- including illegal aliens -- get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion, according to the agency that distributes the welfare benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This represents an increase of more than 16 million over the previous year, according to USDA figures. That’s because the administration is on a mission to eradicate “food insecure households,” according to the Judicial Watch blog.

Obama's economic plan includes a multi-million-dollar federal initiative to recruit even more food-stamp participants and hefty cash rewards for states that sign up the most people, according to Judicial Watch, a group that investigates and exposes government corruption and abuse.

A few months ago, Oregon politicians and bureaucrats boasted that they were successful in getting the USDA to give their state $5 million in “performance bonuses” for ensuring that residents eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications,” according to Judicial Watch.

Inspector General Fong testified before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and she reported to the panel of lawmakers that in the last five years 779 probes have resulted in 1,356 indictments, 944 convictions and 792 sanctions against individuals and businesses that have cheated the system. Those fraud cases alone cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, Fong reported.

The inspector general provided lawmakers with a number of examples of food stamp fraud and abuse. Among them is an illegal alien store owner in Connecticut who got deported after being convicted of food-stamp trafficking. He reentered the U.S. to open several stores using fake names.

In Florida, Fong said, a group of criminals defrauded the USDA welfare program for as much as $6.2 million.

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In addition, thousands of people who aren't even eligible for food stamps are getting them by lying or using the social security number of dead individuals. In a check of just five states, the IG found that 8,594 recipients were receiving “improper payments.” In one state alone, Fong claims that the ineligible collectors are getting about $1.1 million each month.

Fong noted that when this sort of fraud occurs, “families do not receive the intended nutritional assistance and retailers profit at the expense of the American public.”

It also does nothing to help meet the president’s goal of eradicating “food insecure households,” stated the Judicial Watch blogger.

In fact, the Obama Administration and USDA have a slogan for their program: "Food Stamps Make America Stronger."

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A record 46.3 million people -- including illegal aliens -- get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion.