GREEN BAY, WI – The Brown County Sheriff’s Office is cracking down on welfare fraud. The owners of a bar on the northeast-side of Green Bay are accused of misusing QUEST Food Share cards, allowing hundreds of people to buy alcohol, tobacco and get cash.
The investigation into Beach Road Liquor began in April. This week, search warrants allowed law enforcement to gain access into records at that store and the owner's home, showing thousands of dollars in unauthorized sales.
"This was very shocking that there were that many transactions coming from that location," said John Gossage, Brown County Sheriff.
In May alone, there were 1,240 transactions, which totaled $10,273.30 in sales. Three hundred sixty-five people used their QUEST card at the liquor store that month. The investigation continues into those people and how they could be charged.
"It's really our economic support case workers that are diligent and watching the activity of the transaction and they're the ones that tipped us off,” said Jenny Hoffman, Brown County Human Services Economic Support Administrator.
According to the sheriff, customers were allowed to buy alcohol or tobacco with their QUEST cards, something not allowed by the state. While the owners allegedly charged cardholders twice the value of the items to profit.
"When people commit fraud, it hurts those that are truly in need," said Hoffman.
The names of the four suspects, including a juvenile haven't been released. But they’re also accused of using QUEST cards that weren't theirs, buying the cards for cash and using PIN numbers of the cardholders.
"Our whole message today is not that people receiving assistance should be afraid that law enforcement is going to be intrusive in investigations," said Sheriff Gossage.
Investigators also searched the liquor store owner’s home. The sheriff said he doesn't want to discourage people from using their cards correctly.
"If they're complying with the rules of the quest card, and if the employers are complying with that rule, there’s no worry," said Gossage.
The business is currently open, but they cannot use electronic transactions. And the sheriff has a warning to others misusing quest cards.
“Brown County will not tolerate the use of benefits that are intended for these families that really need these benefits,” said Gossage.
Charges for this case have been referred to the District Attorney.