Knox County man arrested for EBT fraud operation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - A Knox County man was arrested at his home Tuesday for using his business as a front to run an EBT fraud operation, according to the sheriff's office.

James Hampton, Jr. was arrested on 21 warrants ranging from theft to sale and delivery of a controlled substance, identify theft, food stamp fraud and computer crimes.

Knox County Sheriff's Office Chief Lee Tramel said Hampton used Volunteer Meat and Seafood as a front to buy EBT cards, trading them for cash and drugs. People would bring their EBT cards to Hampton's van, where he would swipe their cards in exchange for cash or heroin. Hampton would then keep half the money for himself. 

EBT cards are used by state welfare departments to issue benefits to qualified recipients. However, you can only buy certain things with the cards, so trading the card for cash allows people to buy anything they choose.

Tramel said Hampton stole thousands of taxpayer dollars through his operation. 

"People are taking food out of children's mouths to perpetuate an addiction," said Tramel.

Tramel added the sheriff's office is taking "aggressive steps" to stamp out addiction and the crime that goes along with it.

"We're not going to quit, we're not going to get discouraged," he said. "We're going to do everything we possibly can. We owe it to our community."

Hampton will be booked into the Knox County Jail on Tuesday afternoon.

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