TAMPA — The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office released a series of surveillance videos Monday in its case against former Tampa police Sgt. LaJoyce Houston, who is accused of welfare fraud.
The videos were recorded at a Walmart store in Gibsonton and at multiple Publix locations in the weeks before Houston was arrested and subsequently fired from the police department. Prosecutors allege that Houston conspired with Rita Girven, a police informant and Hillsborough jail inmate, to use Girven's food stamps to buy $365 worth of groceries.
In the Walmart video, taken Sept. 10, LaJoyce Houston is seen standing in a checkout line using a card to pay for Bounty paper towels, a case of Zephyrhills bottled water, and a watermelon, among other items. The card LaJoyce Houston used is an electronic benefits transfer card containing Girven's food stamps, according to prosecutors.
Her husband, Eric Houston, a former Tampa police detective, is seen beside her bagging the groceries. The two later push a pair of shopping carts through the store's exit.
LaJoyce Houston was arrested Oct. 10 on charges of food stamp fraud and grand theft. She was fired from the Tampa Police Department the same day. Girven, who is the biological mother of a girl Houston adopted years ago, is a co-defendant in the case.
Eric Houston was not charged in his wife's case, but he was fired in April amid news that a federal grand jury was investigating his alleged involvement in a tax fraud case.