I-Team: Strip clubs, airports, casinos highlight out of state EBT withdraws

Massachusetts welfare recipients took out cash four times at the Rhode Island DMV

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - We’ve been covering the misuse of our tax dollars through the state’s welfare program for years. The 22News I-Team has once again dug into a year’s worth of data and uncovered where our tax dollars are being withdrawn.

The I-Team reviewed hundreds of thousands of ATM Transactions where people receiving state assistance took out money with their EBT card from December of 2015 to November of 2016. The state allows welfare recipients to take out cash, and there’s no way to track how it’s spent. Now we'll reveal where some of that money was withdrawn.

$3.7-million EBT dollars taken out at ATM’s in other states last year.

Casinos, strip clubs, Universal Studios Florida. If this sounds like a broken record, you’re right. Year after year the 22News I-Team looks at where close to $200-million our tax dollars are used through the state’s welfare system. The same places keep popping up. Millions of those dollars were taken out, outside of Massachusetts.

In the past year, our tax dollars were taken out at ATM’s in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The money is meant for “basic needs”, not vacations.

  • $265,320 was taken out in Florida
  • More than $68,000 in Puerto Rico
  • $330,872 in New York with $204,530 of those dollars being taken out in New York City. $1,030 at New York City Nail and Beauty Salons, including $290 at RJ Sexy Nails in Brooklyn.

One of the reasons EBT dollars are allowed to be taken out in other states is because welfare recipients live close to state lines. Yet, it's tough to explain why more money was taken out in Florida than Maine ($112,545) and Vermont ($32,395) combined.

$751,130 in Rhode Island including not one, not two, but three different strip clubs in Providence (The Mega Plex, Cadillac Lounge & Foxy Lady)

$381,685 was taken out in Connecticut, including at Mohegan Sun Casino. EBT money was also withdrawn at casinos in Las Vegas, Montana and New Hampshire.

$1,090,715 of our tax dollars taken out in the Granite State, including hundreds taken out at ATM’s in Fireworks distributors both Phantom Fireworks and Fireworks over the Border.

The I-Team saw $7,070 of our tax dollars being taken out at ATM’s in airports including in Los Angeles, Irving, Texas, Warwick, Rhode Island, New York (JFK & LaGuardia), Albany, Albuquerque, Baltimore, San Juan, Carolina & Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Fort Myers, Florida, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Miami & Columbus, Ohio.

For you "Making a Murderer" fans, $120 was taken out at the Big Apple Pub and Grill in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Another trip to Wisconsin, had a Massachusetts welfare recipient take out $200 at the Milwaukee County Court House.

While we discovered more than $200 was taken out at the Philadelphia Police Department, we can’t speculate what that was for.

Not sure why a Massachusetts resident would need to take out welfare money at a Rhode Island or Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, but we also discovered that happened.

Tthousands of dollars at out of state liquor stores and a $200 trip to the South Carolina State Fair and in total we had $3.7-million EBT dollars taken out at ATM’s in other states last year.

We requested an interview it the Commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance, he oversees the state’s welfare program.  He so far, hasn’t responded to our request.

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