DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.,None - Three Daytona Beach convenience stores were raided on Tuesday for stealing millions of dollars in food-stamp money, according to police.
Investigators said the scheme not only ripped off the federal government, it also stole from some of the area's poorest residents.
Police told WFTV the culprits either paid victims less than what their food-stamp cards were worth or overcharged the EBT cards.
Investigators said it started when police raided two convenience stores last year for selling stolen goods.
The raid led to a tip that led them to the much bigger scheme.
Store owner Lindo Jolly defrauded the federal government of $737,000, officers said.
"Sir, can you tell us why you were doing this?" WFTV reporter Blaine Tolison asked.
"I don't know what they're arresting me for," replied Jolly.
Jolly is one example of three store owners arrested in Daytona Beach for what investigators are calling "EBT card fraud."
"They're saying that you uh, used the welfare system to earn money for yourself," said Tolison.
"Uh, no," Jolly said.
Police said Jolly's customers would use their food-stamp cards to buy beer, cigarettes and wine, which is illegal. In addition to that, Jolly would overcharge the cards to get more money.
"The parasitic store owner would then swipe the card through, charge you, like, a $150 for that purchase. Well, the store owner gets reimbursed for that amount of money," said Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood.
Within a four-block radius, police, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Secret Service also raided two other stores, including the Crab Stop on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
"The Crab Stop alone, we're estimating at $1.1 million in the past year," said Chitwood.
Police said the owner was buying food-stamp cards to make fake purchases with them and then get reimbursed, or the owner would just spend the cards at Sam's Club.
"What's going on here is to the tune of $2 million in a four-block area, imagine what's going on throughout the rest of the state and the rest of the country," Chitwood said.
Officials said there could be more arrests made.