BROWN COUNTY - It's another case of the potential misuse of your taxpayer dollars.
Are people using QUEST cards illegally?
The debit cards allow low-income people to buy food under the state's Food Share program.
Wednesday, Brown County authorities announced a months-long investigation into Beach Road Liquor in Green Bay.
"This equates to a significant Food Share benefit amount fraudulently being paid to the suspect's business through taxpayers' dollars for personal monetary gain," said Brown County Sheriff John Gossage.
It all began back in April. That's when Brown County Human Services officials were tipped off to the alleged criminal activity going on at Beach Road Liquor located at 1020 N. Irwin.
"This was very shocking that there were that many transactions coming from that location" said Gossage.
Brown County authorities said the owner of Beach Road Liquor bought the business in 2010. The federal government then licensed the store to accept QUEST cards.
Gossage said the owner was allowing Food Share recipients to use their QUEST cards to purchase unauthorized items like tobacco, alcohol and cash.
Gossage said the owner and three family members would charge a QUEST cardholder twice the value of the items. The suspects also allegedly took QUEST cards and pin numbers after giving card holders cash.
"The suspects then unlawfully used the QUEST cards to make purchases at their own business or at other local stores in Brown County spending twice the monetary value of the cash that was given to the recipient," Gossage said.
Human Services officials say $3.5 million are issued each month in Food Share benefits to 8,000 recipients in Brown County.
They say they've identified a substantial number of clients with suspicious QUEST card activities at Beach Road Liquor.
"After receiving a tip, our economic support case workers were put on alert that there were fraudulent transactions occurring at Beach Road Liquor and they were asked to monitor the cases for suspicious activity," said Jenny Hoffman with Brown County Human Services.
Gossage says in May, 365 Food Share recipients used their QUEST cards at Beach Road Liquor, resulting in 1,240 transactions totaling more than $10,000.
"So now our sheriff's office is going to have to go back and look at those 365 cards, those transactions, and look at that from that month period, and that could go beyond that," said Gossage.
Sheriff's deputies say they've confiscated QUEST cards, social security cards, cash, gaming machines, cash registers and electronic business scanners from the suspects.
"Beach Road Liquor remains open for business; however, their ability to use electronic business transactions precludes them from accepting QUEST cards," Gossage said.
However, when FOX 11 stopped by the store Wednesday morning, it was locked up. A sign read, "Closed until further notice."
When we stopped by the owner's De Pere home, no one answered the door.
"If that took place there, I don't believe it," said Earley Easterling, when FOX 11 met up with her outside the store.
Easterling frequents Beach Road Liquor and is a QUEST card holder. She said she doesn't believe the allegations.
"No, no, no. I don't think she'd allow it anyway. I don't think she would allow it her or her husband," said Easterling.
No arrests have been made, and because the suspects involved - one of whom Gossage says is a juvenile - have not been charged, authorities are not naming them.
Gossage said the investigation continues and he's recommending a number of charges, including financial transaction card crimes and food stamp offense.
He added anyone with information regarding any welfare fraud is asked to call the Fraud Tip Line at (920) 448-6378.
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