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7 charged with EBT fraud

On Behalf of | Apr 16, 2024 | White Collar Crimes

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced on March 4 that seven individuals have been taken into custody for allegedly stealing Electronic Benefits Transfer data and then using the information to withdraw public-assistance benefits from ATMs. Some of the scheme’s victims are said to have discovered that their benefits had been taken when they tried to use EBT cards to purchase groceries. The suspects were taken into custody by a law enforcement task force led by U.S. Secret Service agents during a three-day crackdown.


According to federal prosecutors, more than $181 million in EBT benefits was stolen from low-income families in California between 2022 and 2024. The vast majority of these funds were stolen by individuals who made unauthorized ATM withdrawals. The seven individuals taken into custody are allegedly part of a criminal enterprise that obtained confidential EBT data by placing devices called skimmers on point-of-sale terminals in grocery stores and supermarkets. When individuals who are receiving benefits use their EBT cards to purchase groceries or other necessities, the skimmers capture data that has been encoded onto magnetic strips.

Wire fraud

The U.S attorney’s press release stated that the seven individuals taken into custody have been charged with wire fraud, but it did not mention how much money they are accused of stealing. The maximum penalties for wire fraud are a custodial sentence of 20 years and a fine of $250,000. The state and federal agencies that took part in the operation include the Oceanside and San Diego Police Departments, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Federal white-collar crime cases

U.S. attorneys rarely take action before they have gathered compelling evidence, which is why most federal white-collar crime cases are resolved at the negotiating table. These individuals face up to 20 years in a federal prison for each count of wire fraud they face, but they are likely to enter into plea agreements and receive more lenient treatment.