Is Ignorance of the Law Now an Excuse in Tampa?: Judge Samantha Ward Dismisses Welfare Fraud Case

Former Tampa police officer LaJoyce Houston used a government issued food stamp card (“EBT”) not issued to her to purchase $365.06 of groceries at Walmart.  Houston claims that the EBT card holder, Rita Girvan, the notorious Tampa Police Department snitch, gave her permission to use the card.  Ms. Houston was criminally charged by Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office for grand theft and welfare fraud.  The welfare fraud statute Ms. Houston was charged under is Florida Statute 414.39(2).  This section reads:

(2) Any person who knowingly: (a) Uses, transfers, acquires, traffics, alters, forges, or possesses; a food assistance identification card, an authorization, including, but not limited to, an electronic authorization, for the expenditure of food assistance benefits, a certificate of eligibility for medical services, or a Medicaid identification card in any manner not authorized by law commits a crime…

Is the law not clear that you are not allowed to use someone else’s EBT card when you are not the intended recipient?  Is it the fault of our law makers up in Tally for not making this statute clear?  Taxpayers you are now footing the bill for future scenarios such as this and others (an individual being legally able to squeeze a little bit of milk from the government teat while drawing a decent salary and having the financial wherewithal to later procure an expensive attorney).

On November 26, 2014 TBO reported that Judge Samantha Ward dismissed the welfare and theft charges against Houston after Houston’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss  arguing Houston did not know it was illegal to use someone’s EBT card with their permission.  TBO goes on to say that Judge Samantha Ward  granted Houston’s attorney’s motion because the State Attorney’s office in Hillsborough could not refute Houston’s attorney’s motion.  Mark Cox was quoted in the TBO article saying that the State Attorney’s office will soon decide whether to appeal.  Stay Tuned.

Tampa Bay Times published the Walmart Videos released by the State Attorney showing Houston paying at the check out line. 

Reaction?  FloridaYouJudge!


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