Dairy, 26 Drivers Accused in Alleged Food Voucher Fraud
Twenty-six milk truck drivers for a Los Angeles dairy have been arrested and the dairy has been suspended from participation in a federally funded nutrition program for low-income women and children because of alleged voucher fraud, the state health director said Tuesday.
Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer said 43 arrest warrants charging forgery and fraud had been issued in the case involving Pure Milk Dairy, the largest vendor in California’s Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Jack Metz, the WIC program chief, who was at the dairy at 1501 N. Main St. late Tuesday, said the warrants were issued against those Pure Milk employees suspected of altering WIC program food vouchers.
He said the names of grocery stores and other outlets appearing on vouchers had been erased, allowing the dairy to turn them in for cash.
There was no immediate comment from operators of the dairy.
WIC is a federally financed program to combat malnutrition in low-income women, infants and children. Food vouchers issued to the recipients may be exchanged at authorized stores for milk, eggs and baby formula.
But, Kizer said, a lengthy investigation by his state Department of Health Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, showed that many vouchers were being bartered for cash or used for the purchase of cookies, ice cream and other unauthorized items.
Numerous vouchers were altered to raise their face values, Kizer added.
In one case, undercover investigators allegedly sold $3,500 worth of vouchers to a Pure Milk Dairy truck driver for $1,125 in cash.
Five teams of investigators from the state agencies and the district attorney’s office served the arrest and search warrants.
According to Kizer, Pure Milk Dairy does an annual business totaling about $4.8 million.
In February of last year, state health officials suspended 54 physicians in Orange and Los Angeles counties for allegedly submitting false health information to allow numerous women to receive WIC program food vouchers.
Investigators said then that coupons were being exchanged for cash, cigarettes, paper towels and other non-food items.