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Thousands in welfare cash tapped at California strip clubs

California welfare recipients have been able to get taxpayer cash -- meant to feed and clothe needy families -- from ATM machines at strip clubs across the state, including some well-known gentlemen’s cabarets in Los Angeles.

More than $12,000 from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program was dispensed from the start of 2007 to the end of 2009 at clubs including Sam’s Hofbrau, Seventh Veil and Star Strip, according to officials at the Department of Social Services.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the department to remove the clubs from the official list of businesses where welfare recipients can withdraw benefits using state-issued ATM cards.

The move came a day after The Times asked the administration how much welfare cash had been withdrawn at 17 adult clubs in recent years and less than a week after The Times reported that more than half the casinos and state-licensed poker rooms in California appeared on an official website showing welfare recipients where they can access cash benefits.

Following that report, Schwarzenegger ordered the casinos struck from the state’s ATM network and directed the Department of Social Services to produce a plan to reduce “waste, fraud and abuse” in the welfare program.

“We'll take a wide-ranging look and apply some common sense to the list of outlets where cash assistance should not be withdrawn,” Department of Social Services spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez wrote in an e-mail to The Times on Tuesday evening, announcing that her department had “taken steps to deactivate ATMs in adult entertainment clubs.”

Strip-club managers seemed shocked that welfare benefits were accessible through their ATMs.  In most cases, the machines were provided by a third party, the managers said, and they had no way of knowing their ATMs are part of the state system.

The state contracts with the Quest ATM network.

“If there’s a way that the ATM can reject their card if they’re on welfare, I’m really and truly all for that,” said Merle Matias, manager at Sam’s Hofbrau in downtown Los Angeles, where $2,159 had been withdrawn, according to Department of Social Services officials.  “I don’t think it will affect us at all.”

Star Strip manager Joey Mancini said state officials must be wrong about the $1,265 they said had been withdrawn from his club’s ATM.  The Quest symbol isn’t on the machine, he said, adding that he thought any system that allowed access to welfare benefits at a strip club should be reformed: “This is not what that money is for.”

A manager at Seventh Veil declined to comment.

-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento

Comments () | Archives (168)

Then the people who are using those ATM's at the strip clubs should be striped of their state-issued ATM cards.

On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. But what if the folks with these cards work there? What if they have been reduced to working as wait staff in a strip joint? Or are custodians in a card room? Seems to me we need to know some more before we render a final judgment.


Just another example of welfare abuse, how many of those recipients do you think were illegal aliens? Meanwhile I work hours and hours and pay taxes and coming home late from work to spend an hour with my son before he goes to bed. Keep voting Democrat people, they are the ones keeping this a welfare state.

This is obviously obscene (on many levels), and the ATM privileges should of course be eliminated. But come on. $12,000?! Millions go to honest people in very difficult circumstances. Here comes all the clamoring for a program to be cut short or closed down. There is far more waste (and thievery) in banking, other businesses and other government entities. As for money going to disgusting purposes, look at the bondage club visit that was paid for by the Republican National Committee in West Hollywood. This is not a meaningful story, it's sensationalism.

I left me money at home so I had to use that ATM. We all need some entertainment eh?

This is disgusting. Strip the welfare, get rid of these Abusers.

Well we just need to raise more taxes on the obscenely rich california families that make 250k a year so we can make sure the poor have access to strippers. It is not fair that the rich can go see strippers but not those on welfare!

Has it occurred to patronizing self-righteous that those using the ATM machines at such places as casinos or strip clubs might be EMPLOYEES of the place and using the machine at work for convenience? Low wage wroerks often end up on cash welfare (TANF) if they are a single parent with kids and earn very little.

Can't blame them..it's free money.

Next at 11 ... Welfare ATM cards used in LA Marijuana ATMS

... I just know it is coming....

Work harder and pay your taxes people these people are depending on us!

If many strippers are single mothers, one weekend's dances away from food stamps, then maybe that money is going to their children.

Then again, it probably goes to the crooked owners, the girls' drug habits & cell phone bills.

This very brief article leaves me wondering if the women who work at these strip clubs were the ones primarily responsible for the bulk of the money withdrawn?

LA Times wrote: "... More than $12,000 from the ..."

You make $12,000 STATE WIDE out of how many $Millions and make that a story, let alone a "Breaking" eblast??

How ridiculous!! The recepients apparently are legally qualified to receive the payments. Where they obtain cash is nobody's business. It just may be that the ATM at the strip club's happen to be the SAFEST and CHEAPEST place in the neighborhood to get some cash.
And, if they might need a drink after having spent another month staring at what the Fed allowed to happen to our Economy, I find that very understandable. They are a vegetable juice product.

LA Times and Gropinator, get you priorities straight! JOBS!!! JOBS!!!

I worked at The Wild Goose for over 4 yrs, Im even in oneof their calendars, ATM machines is nothing new...

now we know why california is always cash poor. the can't handle their budget. close the loophole

This news is both shocking and irresponsibily disgusting! As a Native Californian and tax payer, I believe in providing "temporary" needed assistance to families with children and unemployed individuals. However, I expect my State government to take a wide-ranging individual audits investigations to look and apply some common sense to identify and prosecutive cheaters as criminals and ensure that those public funds are repaid ASAP. apparently, there needs to be stricter controls and timelimits how and to whom these funds are provided.

Does the legal status of anyone committing welfare fraud really matter?

And this is a surprise to anyone because...???

@Chuck Why does every screw up made by our government and its dysfunctional entities have to revolve back to immigration? For your information, there are MANY of my coworkers and neighbors who are immigrants to this country. They have work status, work full time hours for no benefits, pay their taxes every year, and receive NO help from this government or any part of your tax money. We seriously need to stop roping people into stereo types. How do we know that this isn't some of our own citizens abusing the system? In most cases of welfare abuse, it is our own citizens who have been working the system for years. Too lazy to work, lying about who's living with who, how many kids they actually have, etc. We have to stop all of this hate, and just investigate what's going on. Stop being such a racist.

If thats how they want to spend their money its their right. We live in a free country damn it!

There is a way to fix this. Make welfare non cash. First the state pays the rent on the recipient's housing directly to the landlord. Second is to issue vouchers that can only be spent at a major grocery store like Vons or Ralphs. Third the state should forbid welfare recipients from owning a cell phone, getting cable tv or satellite tv and only allow them to have restricted internet access that allows them to look for a job. Fourth, if they own a car give a gas voucher of $50 a week to be used while they look for a job. Welfare benefits should only be for 2 years max. Finally if fraud is discovered then you lose your benefits for life and your children become wards of the state until you find a job.

Can you put this in perspective - how much in total was disbursed by the state of CA for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families during 2007-2009 ? I know you wouldn't want to "sensationalize" the outrageous behavior of a few.

Is anyone really surprised by this? The government needs to remove nail salons from the list too! Welfare should be limited to six months and for legal citizens only.

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