According to WKYT-TV, in one eastern Kentucky county, the police department’s evidence room is filling up with soda by the 12 pack.
It’s because the Hazard Police Department is going undercover at store parking lots in an attempt derail the so-called “pop train” of welfare fraud.
The “pop train” scheme is where food stamp or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients use their benefits to buy soda in bulk and then re-sell them for cash.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal agency that oversees food stamps, considers the scheme trafficking but says the enforcement falls to the state.
"The benefits are not being used for what they are intended for which is to feed their families," Hazard Police Chief Minor Allen said. "It's just become an expected practice in some places."
Kentucky received a $1.1 million dollar federal grant to battle fraud last October, with a portion of that money allocated to Hazard County authorities to crack down on the "pop train".
Officials say, the “pop train” is most visible during the first part of the month as food stamp benefits are dispersed.
"This is something new for us, as far as law enforcement," explained Hazard Police Detective Paul Campbell as crews worked to derail the scheme. "There's a lot of rumors floating around about it. ‘Is this illegal? Why are police investigating this?’"
Earlier this month Campbell showed WKYT how detectives wait outside stores for customers to roll out numerous packages of soda out the door. Detectives then follow the customers to see if they make a sell.
"This comes out of our tax money. It's not right. It's not fair. When people go inside here and purchase whatever they want and then resell it with the intent to defraud the government, that's not right," Campbell said.