Food Stamp fraud nets arrest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

AULANDER – A joint investigation by the Aulander and Lewiston-Woodville police departments has led to an arrest involving Food Stamp fraud.

Delores Yvonne Brent, 33 of 209 Dunning Road, Aulander, was arrested April 12 on two counts of obtaining property by false pretense. She was placed in the Bertie-Martin Regional Jail under a $6,000 cash bond.

The crime apparently began in Lewiston-Woodville on April 4 where a 63-year-old woman was shopping at a grocery store in that town. Upon reaching the checkout counter, the woman’s Food Stamp card failed to properly scan.

&uot;When that occurred, the cashier, later identified as Brent, asked the woman for her Food Stamp card number and PIN (Personal Identification Number),&uot; said Aulander Police Chief Jimmy Barmer who, along with Lewiston-Woodville Police Chief J. Winston Panton, investigated the case.

Barmer continued, &uot;The woman complied with the cashier’s request. The cashier wrote down that information and was able to complete the transaction. The woman left the store with her groceries, not knowing that the information she had just provided would later prove to be a case of identification theft.&uot;

Barmer said the woman returned a few days later to the same Lewiston-Woodville store and attempted to purchase groceries. However, this time around, the cashier (not Brent) informed the woman that the monthly Food Stamp balance on the card had been depleted.

&uot;Apparently worried, the woman, now a victim of Food Stamp fraud, went home and called the Bertie County Department of Social Services,&uot; Barmer said. &uot;They verified the balance on the card was indeed depleted. They went as far as to inform the victim that her remaining balance had been spent on the afternoon of April 4 at a store here in Aulander.&uot;

The victim contacted Chief Panton on April 11.

&uot;Chief Panton and I teamed up on the case,&uot; Barmer said. &uot;He came to Aulander and we visited the store where the victim’s information was used to purchase groceries in a fraudulent manner.&uot;

Barmer said that despite the fact she did not have the victim’s card, Brent was able to use the card’s identification number and the PIN, both valid numbers, in order to purchase items in Aulander.

&uot;We were able to determine that Brent first used the card to make a small, 35-cent purchase in order to discover what the remaining balance was on the card,&uot; Barmer noted. &uot;Upon gaining that knowledge, Brent remained in the store and made purchases that depleted the victim’s balance.&uot;

The incident sparked Barmer to issue a warning to anyone using any type of card to make purchases.

&uot;I know it’s been said over and over, but it’s always worth repeating that it’s not safe to freely give out personal information,&uot; he said. &uot;Identification theft is now one of the leading crimes in America. I would urge everyone to closely guard those numbers. You don’t want them falling into the wrong hands as they did in this case.&uot;