Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FDLE arrests 21 people in fraudulent use of food stamp benefits

TAMPA — Agents arrested 21 people accused of accepting food stamp money for items including beer, cigarettes, condoms and, in one case, oxycodone, state law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Four of the stores involved in the suspected fraud are in the Tampa Bay area — three in Tampa and one in Port Richey — the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. On Wednesday, six bay area clerks were arrested and charged with food stamp fraud.

One of the suspects, Curtis Raymond Walker, 51, the owner of Big Daddy's Quick E Drive By in Tampa, was found dead in his home this morning, Tampa police said. There were no signs of foul play or forced entry, and an autopsy has not been completed. He left behind a wife and two teenage children, family friend Lamont Walker said.

Earlier this year, undercover FDLE agents visited about 30 convenience stores and bought ineligible items from 15 of the stores. In some transactions, the stores made money by swiping the government-issued Electronic Benefit Transfer card for an amount more than the purchase and keeping some of the excess cash for themselves, said FDLE special agent Jim Madden.

He said the undercover agents often simply asked, "Do you have cash today?" and were able to get money from their EBT cards, which work like debit cards and allow users to access funds for approved food staples through the federal food stamp program.

The agency estimates that nationwide, this type of fraud accounts for millions of dollars of misused taxpayer money. About 2.5 million people in Florida get food stamp benefits through the Department of Children and Families.

"These benefits are intended to put food on the table for those in need," FDLE Assistant Commissioner Ken Tucker said.

Before the undercover operations started in January, FDLE agents analyzed dozens of convenience stores and focused on about 30 that were doing an unusually high amount in sales using the EBT cards.

In some cases, the stores were doing $20,000 to $30,000 of business with the EBT cards, compared with nearby stores doing just over $1,000 a month.

At Big Daddy's at 5229 S MacDill Ave. in Tampa, an undercover agent was able to buy beer, cigarettes and condoms. In addition to Walker, store clerks Wayne R. Stumbo, 46, and Tabitha Z. Wood, 34, were arrested.

At Hawkins and Bell's Grocery at 4020 E Osborne Ave. in Tampa, an undercover agent was able to get about $290 using an EBT card. The store kept about $300, the FDLE reported. Tracy Lamar Burr, 22, who works at the store, was arrested.

At Checkers Mini Mart at 6521 Ridge Road in Port Richey, an undercover agent bought beer and cigarettes. Teoman Markal, 46, who works at Checkers, was arrested.

And at MZ Food Store at 5247 S MacDill Ave. in Tampa, an agent bought cartons of cigarettes. Mohammad Ali Abukhder, 33, who works at the store, was arrested.

The remainder of FDLE's arrests took place throughout the state. Those arrested were charged with food stamp fraud, a third-degree felony.

The department now plans to launch phase two of its food stamp fraud crackdown. Agents will focus on arresting those who use their EBT cards to buy ineligible items.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

FDLE arrests 21 people in fraudulent use of food stamp benefits 03/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 18, 2010 11:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gov. Scott in Washington as health care debate intensifies


    Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday began a daylong series of meetings in Washington on health care, saying he wants to ensure Florida gets its share of Medicaid funding while praising parts of the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement.

  2. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]
  3. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor's race has been making headlines for nearly two months as Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have been making speeches, pressing the flesh at fundraisers and gathering their ground forces for an election battle that has already broken fundraising records.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  4. Tampa moves to pause permits for 5G wireless equipment to assess impact of new Florida law


    To business groups, the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed Friday will clear the way for superfast 5G wireless communications and give Florida an edge in attracting high-tech companies.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.
  5. Trump takes another swipe at CNN after resignations over retracted Russia story


    NEW YORK — President Donald Trump used the resignations of three CNN journalists involved in a retracted Russia-related story to resume his attack on the network's credibility Tuesday.

    Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]