Welfare fraud hotline lights up after WKYT 'Pop Train' investigation

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Calls reporting people suspected of turning welfare benefits into cash lit up a Kentucky fraud hotline Friday after WKYT investigated the so-called "Kentucky's Pop Train."

"By 11:30 a.m. today, our hotline had received eight calls specific to reports about soda purchases. This is about the number of calls we would get related to soda in a two-week period," said Anya Weber, a spokesman for the Cabinet for Children and Family Services.

WKYT's Miranda Combs investigated after receiving numerous calls telling WKYT to be at the Jackson Walmart or Save-A-Lot at the first of the month when SNAP benefits -- or food stamps -- are given out. The callers and Jackson's police chief told WKYT there would be people pushing and unloading carts and carts full of pop.

"It happens everyday. We see it often," said Jackson Police Chief Ken Spicer.

"I'm a big believer if you have it and someone needs it, give it to them. If they are going to use it for the right reasons," said Bryan Combs, a Jackson city council member and Breathitt County native.

The councilman says the "pop train" bothers him because he says taxpayer dollars are being taken out of Jackson stores by the 12-pack.

Chief Spicer told WKYT people will buy the pop with food stamps, then turn around and sell it for cash. He says typically the sale is made to small convenience stores outside the Breathitt County line.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services says a ban on selling food items purchased with SNAP benefits is a relatively new provision, and they continue to work with local offices to ensure they understand the policy.

If you see this happening and want to report it, call the Cabinet for Health and Family Services at 1-800-372-2970.

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