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Bill would let state workers arrest retailers engaged in welfare fraud

A deli that accepts food stamps
Flickr user Eric
Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A Michigan senate bill would let some state workers arrest people for retail trafficking of food stamps and other benefits.

The bill would give a small group of specialized state agents power to arrest retailers without a warrant if they have probable cause.

Currently, agents with the state Department of Health and Human Services can only take action against benefit recipients engaged in trafficking.

When it comes to retailers, DHHS must rely on federal agents with the US Department of Agriculture.

"Right now, our Office of Inspector General receives daily tips on retailer trafficking of food benefits," said DHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton.

"We just want to have tools and resources to make sure public assistance dollars go to those truly in need and are spent in accordance with program requirements," Wheaton said.

Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, the bill's sponsor, said it could save the state millions.

"This [bill] helps not only the integrity of the [welfare] program, but also our taxpayers," he said.

MacGregor said agents serving with the specialized unit would first have to go through background checks.

"I'm working with both the Michigan State Police and DHHS to come up with language that satisfies both departments in terms of what training [agents] will need to have," MacGregor said.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is sponsoring a separate companion bill that would allow the specialized agents to carry firearms.

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