Ohio officials should go after food stamp fraud

It should not require a formal agreement for the federal government to cooperate with states in reducing food stamp fraud, but apparently it does.

Federal officials announced this week that Ohio has become one of the first states in the nation to be part of a new program to curb crime in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps. Under the arrangement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state will share data that will help the state monitor food stamp transactions and detect fraud.

About 1 percent of the $80 billion spent nationwide on the program is lost to fraud, federal officials estimate. That is down from 14 percent just a few years ago – and the lower estimate certainly is suspect.

More than 1.8 million Ohioans receive food stamp aid, dispensed through “swipe” cards. The program costs more than $2.4 billion a year in the Buckeye State alone.

Just a year ago, state Auditor Dave Yost warned of abuse in the food stamp program. Yost said one scam involves obtaining a food stamp card, using or selling it, then seeking another one by claiming the original was lost. As many as 17,000 Ohio food stamp clients received 10 or more “reissued” cards during the previous year, he said.

Clearly, curbing food stamp fraud is in taxpayers’ best interests. Ohio state officials should use this new data-sharing opportunity to stop at least some of it and file criminal charges against those responsible.

Illegal drugs from the murderous Mexican cartels already can be found throughout the United States. But now, authorities across the nation say, the cartels have sent their operatives to several U.S. cities, including Columbus.

That is not acceptable. Home-grown drug gangs are bad enough, using violence frequently to settle their squabbles. But the Mexican cartels are on another, much more brutal level of violence.

U.S. authorities, including those in Ohio, should make it a top priority to send the cartel operatives packing. The illegal drug crisis is bad enough without their presence.