ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - By Morgan Thomas - email
ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Authorities have made the fourth and fifth arrests in less than a week in relation to suspects accused of falsifying information in order to receive food-stamp benefits.
Kristi Hackler Ferguson, 38, of Lufkin, and Thomas Paul White, 39, of Pollok, are charged with securing execution of document by deception. They were arrested on Monday.
The arrests follow two on Thursday and one on Friday on the same charge. Arrest warrant affidavits show Ron Brandon with the Angelina County District Attorney's Office the lead investigator on each case.
In Ferguson's case, the affidavit alleges she reported on a form, used to determine eligibility for food-stamp benefits, in July 2009 that her husband did not reside in the household, when he did.
In White's case, the affidavit alleges he reported on the same form in Nov. 2009 that his son was living in his household, but he actually resided with his mother in Irving.
Welfare fraud suspects are given a chance to pay back the money before they're ever arrested.
If they can't, Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington says the solution is simple.
"Charges are filed and they typically turn themselves into the jail," Herrington said. "And the very few that don't, we'll get their warrant entered and they'll get picked up."
The food-stamp fraud comes at a time when applications for the benefits have jumped 20 percent in the past year.
It's a trend the Health and Human Services Commission says they've seen before.
"We see the number of enrollees in the program go up, unfortunately tends to be the case that we also see fraud cases go up," spokesperson Stephanie Goodman said.
With more people on food stamps, the commission wants to make sure only the people who need assistance get it -- especially since it's funded by taxpayers.
"We ask for a lot of information," Goodman said. "But then we run that information against other sources. Like the Texas Workforce Commission to make sure its accurate."
"That's something that makes working people mad because if somebody is drawing benefits that they shouldn't," Herrington said. "It's kind of a burden on society."