GREEN BAY - Authorities say a five-month probe into welfare fraud at a Green Bay tavern may be just part of a growing problem.
The owner of Billy Goats Pub and two former bartenders are facing multiple charges.
The bar is located on South Broadway and is currently closed.
The fraud probe at Billy Goats Pub began in March. Green Bay police say the bar was already part of a nuisance investigation. According to a criminal complaint, the owner and another bartender bought QUEST Cards from customers to buy food for the bar.
QUEST Cards work like debit cards and are part of the county's food share program. People are supposed to buy food with the cards, but authorities say Billy Goats had a different offer.
“So if you had $100 on your QUEST Card, employees at Billy Goats Pub would give them $50 cash and use as they felt necessary. A lot of things you cannot purchase, that being alcohol, cigarettes, stuff like that,” said Captain Jeff Danborn, Brown County Sheriff’s Department.
The owner, Sue Long, is facing 15 counts. Bartender and manager Jodie Handback is charged with 17 more. Former bartender Victoria Cannon is also charged in one incident. Cannon says she borrowed a card from Handback to buy food. The two women take part in the food share program.
“I honestly, truly thought it was my friend helping me and I was going to help my friend back. But no intentions of buying cards, selling cards or anything like that. I never knew what was going on,” said Cannon, who lives in Green Bay.
Authorities say they tracked $651 in food stamp purchases connected to the bar. They say the fraud problem is growing.
Last year, Beach Road Liquor in Green Bay was closed after people were allowed to use QUEST Cards to buy liquor and tobacco.
“It was the statements of those individuals, saying well everybody's doing it. Everybody's selling those QUEST Cards. Everybody's making a profit, or everybody's selling these,” said Brown County Sheriff John Gossage.
Authorities say proposed legislation would reimburse agencies for their efforts to stop the fraud.
The three women charged in this case are scheduled to make their first court appearances in October.
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