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Illinois Department of Human Services office clerk Elizabeth Nichols demonstrates the activation an Illinois Link card, an electronic debit-like card used in place of the traditional food stamp, using a POS machine similar to the card reader a recipient would use at a given redemption location, June 24, 2004 at an Illinois Department of Human Services office in Skokie, Illinois. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced all 50 states and the U.S. territories now provide Food Stamp Program benefits with EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards instead of the traditional paper coupon stamps. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Authorities in Cook County say they've arrested more than 150 fugitives after tracking them down with the help of paperwork the fugitives themselves filled out to collect food stamps.
"Operation Talon" resulted in the arrest of 168 men and women wanted for a host of crimes, ranging from kidnapping and arson to possession of marijuana.
"When you're wanted, you're not eligible to have public assistance," Dart explained Monday. "As these fugitives purposely evaded justice, they were also ripping off taxpayers by illegally collecting food stamps.
The operation began the week of April 19 and involved the sheriff's office and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Marshals Service's Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.
People often give an old or fake address when they're arrested, but many of them gave correct addresses on forms to receive public aid, the sheriff said. Dart's office cross-checked their arrest warrants with the USDA's rolls and were able to come up with over 700 matches.
"By working together with [the USDA], we were able to take data that we normally don't have when we're out looking for people that are wanted and quickly ascertain where they're at and go and arrest them," said Dart.
Cook County has more than 40,000 outstanding arrest warrants.
Some of those arrested may have been on public aid for two years or more, officials said. It's unclear, right now, how much taxpayer money is involved.
Dart said technical limitations have prevented them the sting from being done on a regular basis previously.
Among those busted:
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