7 arrested for using food stamps in drug deals

TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — Police across the country are cracking down on food stamp fraud.

PHOTOS: Mugshots of the 7 arrested for using food stamps in drug deals

The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office arrested seven people recently who were using their government benefits to buy drugs.

It started with a drug investigation, but deputies quickly discovered another crime, EBT fraud.

People were using their government assistance to buy pills, meth, and weed, according to detectives.

Seven people are now without food stamps now after being charged with EBT fraud.

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“One of the guys would take the EBT card in lieu of drug payments,” said Tipton County Sheriff J.T. ‘Pancho’ Chumley.

“This set of suspects represents a population across the country,” said Chief Bill Daugherty.

One man charged is Jerry Vandiver.

“They're just trying to pick on me, that's all it is,” said Vandiver.

The sheriff’s office said Vandiver, who has been arrested ten times before, was taking cards as drug payments.

“That's what they say, but it wasn't [EBT fraud],” said Jerry Vandiver.

"What was it?" asked FOX13's Zach Crenshaw.

“It was where I was holding the food stamp card for somebody, but there was no money on it,” Vandiver replied.

“Were there any drugs involved?”

“Not on that right there there wasn't.”

Sheriff Chumley said the crime is a slap in the face to the honest people in Tipton County.

“This program is not free, it costs,” said the sheriff.

“The people that are really needing assistance, they don't get it when they really need it.”

Nicole Summerville applied in the past and was denied SNAP benefits.

“They told me I wasn't qualified,” said Summerville. “That makes me kind of angry, because I could use those stamps.”

“I think it's horrible I think everybody should be held accountable for this government assistance that they get,” said Marilyn Massey.

The fraud happens all over the country.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office busted a meat market in 2017 for over one million dollars worth of food stamp fraud.

The Tipton County Sheriff’s Office said their investigations are far from over.

“We probably haven't even scraped the tip of the iceberg,” said Chief Daugherty.

“We are going to work with the Department of Human Services to do everything we can to get them out of the wrong hands, and maybe someone in need can get that assistance,” said Sheriff Chumley.

Six of the seven people arrested have since bonded out of jail.

The sheriff said some of the suspects had children, but it will be the state’s decision about if benefits will be restored and what happens to the children if the parent cannot provide.