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EBT cards being traded for drugs, police say

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Posted at 11:27 PM, Oct 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-27 08:54:36-04

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s news that tax payers won’t like to hear.

Unified Police say they are confiscating more and more Horizon cards off of drug dealers during arrests.

Horizon cards are EBT cards provided to low-income individuals and households. The cards are used to purchase approved foods. However, police say some are using them in exchange for drugs.

“I would attribute the uptick to the amount of heroin that’s on the streets,” said Sgt. VanWagoner with Unified Police. “We have a great deal of it.”

Officials with the Department of Work Force Services say they are aware of the problem.

“It’s disappointing,” said Nic Dunn, spokesman for the Department of Work Force Services.  “We like to see people use it (Horizon card) to get back on their feet.”

According to Work Force Services Terms and Conditions:

Card holders cannot give food stamp benefits to anyone who has no right to use them or purchase ineligible items…such as alcohol, cigarettes… or other non-food items

Penalties for first time offenders could make card holders ineligible for benefits for 12 months; for a second violation, 24 months; and for a third violation, card holders could have their benefits permanently taken away.

“Any normal charges associated with drug use would apply as well,” Dunn said.

But VanWagoner said charging assistance abusers isn’t so easy.

“Frequently, the story you’ll get is ‘I lost my card,'” VanWagoner said.  “You won’t get an honest answer.”

In the grand scheme of things, Utah looks pretty tame compared to the rest of the country. At the moment, 0.2% of the population is in violation, but those numbers could change if the trend continues.

“We see them frequently,” VanWagoner admits.​