News Release Listing
Contact: Kathy Spears, 360-902-77893,
Contact: Sgt. Ted Dehart, 360-490-8130,
May 22, 2012
DSHS employee arrested today in Pierce Co. for allegedly accessing a former client's Basic Food benefits
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Patrol arrested a Pierce County Department of Social and Health Services employee on felony charges this morning for allegedly using a former client's Electronic Benefit Transfer to purchase food items.
Forty-four-year old Tammy McElroy of Graham was booked into the Pierce County jail today for investigation of Unlawful Redemption of Food Stamps, a felony. McElroy has worked for DSHS since 1998 and has served as a Financial Services Specialist since 2003.
On April 25, a former DSHS client reported to the Pierce North Community Service Office that he received a notice to recertify his benefits. He said he did not understand this, as he had turned in his EBT card and requested closure of his Basic Food assistance in September 2010.
A DSHS initial internal investigation revealed that the benefits were not closed as requested. Several returned mail items in the client's file suggests the client was unaware of case activity until his address was recently updated based on forwarding information received from the Post Office. The most recent notification regarding the eligibility review due in February 2012 went to the correct address. That's when the client discovered that his case was not closed as he had requested in 2010.
Total basic food benefits issued from September 2010 to February 2012 equaled $3,225.00.
"It is always difficult to find out that co-worker has taken advantage of any of our program that help the disadvantaged," said DSHS Office of Fraud and Accountability Senior Director Steve Lowe. "Although in this case, no one lost access to benefits, it's disheartening to discover fraud in the work place. People work very, very hard in their jobs to get assistance to those in need and I don't want this to reflect on the thousands of honest workers who believe in what they do and go the extra mile to get help for children and families."
The Department made a referral to the Washington State Patrol and immediately placed the employee on alternate assignment. The Department was able to positively identify the employee by viewing the store's video surveillance tapes, and confirm the use of the client's EBT card by viewing the store's transaction receipts.
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DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.