After a lengthy investigation, Hendry County investigators report they have arrested 53-year-old Eugene “Tracy” Martinez, of Moore Haven, on charges of fraud and theft.
The arrest took place on Nov. 16.
The six-month investigation reportedly revealed that Martinez utilized and trafficked 47 different EBT food stamp cards over a period of one year, according to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office looked into Martinez’s phone records and reportedly found he would call the automated EBT number on the card to check the balance and within a couple of days there would reportedly be a large transaction.
The phone records belonging to Martinez allegedly indicated that a second call would be made to ensure there was a zero balance. This pattern occurred every month on all 47 cards for a year, said the sheriff’s office.
During the course of the investigation, it was reportedly established that Martinez trafficked in EBT cards by allegedly purchasing them from the registered card holder for pennies on the dollar and selling them to a third party at a higher rate.
Martinez also allegedly used several EBT cards to complete purchases himself.
The food stamp office provided 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 allegedly used.
They began collecting videos and photographs and were allegedly able to positively identify Martinez from the image captured on film, reports the sheriff’s office.
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 your tax dollars to scam the system, something needs to be done. There has been $60,000 scammed in our small town alone. I can’t imagine how much is being scammed nationwide.”
At this time is it reported Martinez may be responsible for upwards of $60,000 in public assistance fraud.
Eugene “Tracy” Martinez was placed under arrest on Nov. 16 on charges of fraud, grand theft and petit theft.
Martinez was released from the Hendry County Jail the same day on $11,500 bond.
It is anticipated there will be additional charges.