Their Crime, Your Dime
When the KING-TV news department began an investigation of welfare fraud in their communities, the surprise was just how easily the schemes could be uncovered. Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards were created by the state‘s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to facilitate ease of use by legitimate recipients. When reported lost, however, replacement cards would be issued on the spot. The DSHS reported an average of 27,000 replacements per month in the year prior to the KING investigation. More than 20,000 people replaced cards three or more times. The duplicate cards were sold, used for cash transfers from ATM machines, some in adult entertainment establishments, and even exchanged on the street for drugs. KING reporter Chris Ingalls found one individual advertising a card for sale on Craigslist. On-camera confrontations, interviews with DSHS officials and carefully documented statistics led to quick results. Some officials resigned or retired. The state legislature appropriated funds for a new fraud prevention squad. A new law was passed, closing many loopholes leading to abuse. Four people identified in the reports were arrested and three have been convicted. For reporting on a problem that affected the entire community and for demonstrating that strong investigative journalism can lead to significant change, a Peabody Award goes Their Crime, Your Dime.
PRIMARY PRODUCTION CREDITS
Reporter: Chris Ingalls. Photographer/Editor: Steve Douglas. Executive Producer: Kellie Cheadle. News Director: Mark Ginther