A Campbell County store was raided and closed Friday in an alleged EBT card scam involving the vice mayor of LaFollette.
Campbell County Sheriff Robbie K. Goins says the investigation into The Pop Shop on Jacksboro Pike has been ongoing for three months. Goins says people would buy and sell soda, other drinks and snacks using food stamp cards, and then sell them to the store, which would then be sold at a profit.
Goins says undercover officers on several occasions would come, be told what to purchase, and then come back to sell it. Goins said narcotics, specifically marijuana, were also sold at the business, as well property believed by the owners to be stolen.
“Pretty much everybody had the feeling that stuff was going on there but nobody ever said anything,” said Janet Douglas, a community member.
Goins says a raid like this is a way to break the cycle of opioid abuse. He says many times people selling EBT goods for cash turn around and spend it in other illegal activities, like narcotics.
“We would send our undercover agent in and ask what they need. They would ask the amount and what kind of sodas they want and where to go buy them,” said Goins.
The raid began around 11 a.m. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the 8th District Judicial Drug Task Force were also on scene.
“The taxpayers work and pay to give these folks EBT cards. They are to use them to feed their families and make sure their kids have food to eat, but they’re not doing that. Some folks are not doing that. And the ones that are bringing them here definitely aren’t,” said Goins.
No one was arrested on Friday, but Goins says indictments are pending against three people, including LaFollette Vice Mayor Joe Bolinger. Goins has not yet detailed Bolinger’s alleged involvement. Store owner Jimmy Ivey and a worker, Jennifer Brown, also face indictments.
“You know when you’re doing wrong. You know when something is not right, so don’t be involved in it,” said Goins.
Cases of soda and other drinks have been confiscated. They will eventually be donated to nonprofits or local food shelters.