LABELLE, FL. -- After a lengthy investigation, Hendry County Investigators arrested 53 year old Eugene “Tracy” Martinez on Charges of Fraud and Theft.
The six month investigation revealed that Martinez utilized and trafficked 47 different EBT Food Stamp cards over a period of one year.
An investigation into Martinez phone records disclosed he would call the automated EBT number on the card to check the balance on the associated cards and within a couple of days there would be a large transaction. The phone records belonging to Martinez indicated that a second call would be made to ensure that the there was a zero balance. This pattern occurred every month on all 47 cards for a year.
During the course of the investigation it was established that Martinez trafficked in EBT cards by purchasing them from the registered card holder for pennies on the dollar and then sold them to a third party for at a higher rate. Martinez also utilizied several of the EBT cards to complete purchases himself and at times used two different EBT cards to complete the transaction.
The Food Stamp office provided to Hendry County Investigators a list of transactions for each card. Investigators used this report, phone bills, and witness statements and began contacting locations where the EBT cards were used. They began collecting videos and photographs and were able to positively identified Martinez from the images captured on film.
Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden said, “There is definitely a flaw in the welfare system. When it's that easy for people who are living off of your tax dollars to scam the system, something needs to be changed. There has been $60,000 scammed in our small town alone. I can't imagine how much is being scammed nationwide."
At this time it is thought that Martinez may be responsible for upwards of $60,000 in Public Assistance Fraud.
On November 16, 2015 Eugene “Tracy” Martinez, was placed under arrest on charges of Fraud, Grand Theft and Petit Theft. Martinez was released from the Hendry County Jail, Monday, November 16, 2015 on $11,500.00. It is anticipated there will be additional charges.