WKYT Investigates: Business owner derailing 'pop train'

LONDON, Ky. (WKYT) - A southern Kentucky grocery store owner says he wants to derail the so-called “pop train” — a method where welfare recipients turn their food stamp benefits into cash — before it ever happens at his store.

In February, a WKYT investigation uncovered the selling of mass amounts of soda bought with food stamps for cash in Breathitt County. It’s considered trafficking by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which oversees the nation’s food stamp program.

But the problem hasn't stopped in other parts of the state. Pictures have been sent to us from all over the state, including one possible picture of the pop train at EC Porters in London.

Store owner Stuart House told WKYT he doesn't allow the pop train in his store. He says the picture much have been of people buying large amounts of drinks for an event.

"If someone were to come up and purchase a large amount of soda with a food stamp card, it would not be allowed," House told WKYT’s Miranda Combs. He said he realizes purchasing pop with food stamps is not illegal. Trafficking the pop after it's bought is the illegal part. Yet he says it's his responsibility to stop it at the source.

"It's not the way it's meant to be. It's meant for food, for families," House said.

Jackson Police Ken Spicer since February when he shared his frustration about what was happening that the pop train has slowed in his community. Chief Spicer says he thinks the WKYT investigation scared people from making the food stamp purchases since people started snapping pictures of possible cases.

The WKYT investigation in February uncovered people in Jackson pushing pop cases piled high to their cars. "It happens everyday. We see it often," said Chief Spicer in February.

Spicer and Jackson city council member Brian Combs believed people were buying the pop with food stamps and then selling the soda for cash.

"There's nothing locally we can do about it. Unfortunately it's a federal issue," Combs said.

Chief Spicer says since the original WKYT story aired, the state started an investigation in the small town.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services says they've gotten 24 new calls to the Office of the Inspector General about "pop train" related activity.

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