SS/SB 251 - This act modifies provisions relating to public assistance fraud and abuse.
ELECTRONIC BENEFITS TRANSFER CARDS (Section 208.024)
Under this act, eligible recipients of temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) benefits shall not use such funds in any electronic benefit transfer (EBT) transaction in any liquor store, casino, gambling casino or gaming establishment, any adult-oriented establishment or in any place or for any item that is primarily marketed for or used by adults eighteen or older and/or is not in the best interests of the child or household. Any TANF recipient who violates this provision shall reimburse the Department of Social Services for such purchase.
An individual, store owner or proprietor of an establishment shall not accept TANF cash assistance funds held on EBT cards for the purchase of such items or in such establishments listed above and if such person knowingly accepts EBT cards in violation of this act shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 dollars for the first offense, a fine of not less than $500 dollars nor more than $1,000 dollars for the second offense, and a fine of not less than $1,000 dollars for the third or subsequent offense.
PUBLIC ASSISTANCE FRAUD (Sections 578.375 to 578.392)
The criminal provisions relating to welfare fraud have been updated to reflect current federal language for the Food Stamp program and for the use of electronic benefit or ("EBT") cards.
The criminal offenses of (1) unlawfully receiving, (2) unlawful conversion, and (3) unlawful transfer of public assistance benefits or EBT cards have been updated and renamed. Any person found guilty of such offenses shall be guilty of a class D felony unless the face value of the public assistance benefit or EBT card is less than $500 dollars, in which case the person shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The act provides for enhanced penalties for subsequent offenses.
Any person who is found guilty of felony unlawfully receiving, unlawful conversion or unlawful transfer of public assistance benefits or EBT cards shall serve not less than 120 days in the Department of Corrections unless such person pays full restitution to the state of Missouri within 30 days of the date of execution of sentence. In addition to any criminal penalty, any person found guilty of unlawfully receiving, unlawful conversion, or unlawful transfer of public assistance benefits or EBT cards shall pay full restitution to the state of Missouri for the total amount of monies converted. No person placed on probation for the offense shall be released from probation until full restitution has been paid.
This act provides that the Department of Social Services, rather than the Attorney General's Office, shall establish and maintain a statewide toll-free telephone service to be operated eight hours a day during the work week to receive complaints of a suspected public assistance fraud. The department shall also study analytical modeling-based methods of detecting fraud and issue a report to the General Assembly and Governor by December 1, 2013, relating to the benefits and limitations of such a model.
Each prosecuting attorney who obtains a guilty plea or verdict for any violation of the public assistance fraud offenses shall be entitled to receive a fee from the amount of restitution paid by the defendant. The fee shall be fifty percent of the state's share of the amount of restitution calculated by the department on an annual basis and published in the Missouri Register on or before the first day of September each calendar year.