Raleigh tattoo parlor accepted food stamps as payment for tattoo work

Food stampsIn yet another example of a misuse of taxpayer dollars, Raleigh police report a tattoo parlor in the North Carolina city has been accepting food stamps as payments for ink.

According to Raleigh’s WNCN, Ink Addiction Tattooz accepted Electronic Benefit Transfer cards — part of the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — as payment for tattoo work. The Raleigh Police Department said the tattoo parlor and its owner, Clifford Craig Tittle, accepted hundreds of dollars in welfare benefits.

As outlined in court documents, Tittle purchased two EBT cards in exchange for free ink from an informant who went on to trade more than four of the cards — which act as a vehicle for food stamps — from the tattoo parlor’s owner.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture went on to conduct an investigation and found tattoo work had been paid for using EBT cards in four instances.

As WNCN reported, two individuals used EBT cards and cash at Ink Addiction Tattooz in early September. They charged $421 and $417.61 to the cards, court documents show, on Sept. 4 in exchange for tattoo work.

Additionally, another person paid Tittle a total of $588 for ink — $413 on their EBT card and $175 in cash — on Sept. 6.  And in another instance — also on Sept. 6 — a fourth person sold Ink Addiction Tattooz’s owner an EBT card worth $570 for a mere $215.

Officials with the Raleigh Police Department received a search warrant for the shop and took evidence surrounding the fraud Thursday. The authorities seized earnings from the EBT-cards-for-tattoos transactions, computer terminals used in the trafficking and evidence of ownership of Ink Addiction Tattooz after receiving the warrant.

Tittle’s arrest was due in part to information provided by a confidential informant who met with the owner five different times between Sept. 4 and Sept. 11. The informant sold Tittle food stamps twice and received $600 worth of tattoo work during two other meetings, which were in exchange for the EBT cards.

The parlor owner faces charges of buying or selling/distribution of food stamps and conspiracy to obtain property under false pretense. He was arrested Sept. 12.

Officials with the Raleigh Police Department did not return Red Alert’s request for comment.

News of Tittle’s exchanging food stamps for tattoo work comes a month after the Department of Agriculture published a report examining integrity in SNAP and the trafficking, or the sale of SNAP benefits for cash or other ineligible items, of food stamps.

“USDA has a zero tolerance policy on fraud, and we continue to strengthen our anti-fraud tactics to identify and exclude bad actors. More than any other factor, we know that the change in the trafficking rate is being driven by the growth in the number of smaller retailers where trafficking occurs at ten times the rate of larger grocery stores and supermarkets,”  Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said in a news release last month. “And while the vast majority of retailers and participants are honest, exploring enhanced retailer requirements reaffirms our commitment to ensuring that everyone plays by the rules.”