JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has 198 suspects arrested after a multi-year undercover investigation into food stamp fraud.
JSO held a news conference Tuesday afternoon regarding the long-term undercover organized fraud investigation, which is called "Operation Half-Back" and started back in 2012.
Numerous people in the investigation would allegedly sell their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, for cash or drugs through illegal businesses sprinkled across the First Coast.
For instance, a person may be able to sell $500 worth of SNAP benefits for $250 cash or drugs of the same equivalent, JSO said.
There were thousands of fraudulent SNAP transactions made by various illegal businesses in the Jacksonville area. As a result, about $3.7 million in taxpayer money was stolen through this illegal operation, JSO Sheriff Mike Williams said.
During the course of the investigation, JSO conducted 390 undercover transactions from February 2017 to July 2017.
As far as charges go, 21 recruiters, intermediaries were charged with organized schemes to defraud and public assistance fraud, both felony charges.
There were 116 sellers charged with felony public assistance fraud and 61 arrested for misdemeanor public assistance fraud, depending on how much of their benefits were sold for cash or drugs, according to JSO.
An additional 161 warrants are waiting to be issued, JSO said during the news conference and on Twitter.
Some of the businesses JSO cracked down on were Lawaun Walker’s Produce, URKO Ballers Produce, Sheonna’s Seafood, and RNS Mobile Meats LLC, Sisters Mobile Meats LLC.