Indiana state worker charged with EBT fraud

July 1, 2002

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Seneithea K. Griffin, a 29-year-old St. Joseph County caseworker, has been charged with bilking taxpayers out of as much as $250,000 by issuing debit cards to fictitious EBT recipients, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star.

The thefts began in mid-October, a few months after the northern Indiana county went online with its EBT system, and went into early June, when officials caught on.

Griffin, of South Bend, faces one count of felony theft. Last month a state worker in Indianapolis spotted a series of unusually large ATM payments, many of which occurred at a convenience store.

Mishawaka police arrested Griffin at her home on June 28. The charge against her carries a maximum prison term of four years and a $10,000 fine.

Investigators believe much of the stolen money was gambled away at a riverboat casino.

Indiana's welfare director, John Boyce, said he hopes the relatively quick arrest will deter other employees from abusing the system, which dispenses cash from ATMs. By April, every Indiana county was distributing welfare benefits with the cards.

State officials say the system is more susceptible to fraud by workers than the old one, though the old method was more susceptible to fraud by recipients. State officials say records checks like the one that exposed Griffin, coupled with anti-fraud software, should reduce the likelihood of theft.

"This case has taught us there are indications of fraud to be paying attention to that we didn't know to look for before," Boyce said.

Griffin and two others, who remain under investigation, are suspected of using three cards to obtain Temporary Assistance to Needy Families payments. They also bought about $6,000 worth of food.

At least $180,000 in benefits were distributed using a card police say Griffin controlled. ATM photographs show her using the card, said Chris Stanton, supervisor of investigations for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

Griffin has been suspended without pay from her $21,236-a-year job in Mishawaka's Office of Family and Children since June 14.

Topics: Security

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