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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The move came a day after The Times asked the administration how much welfare cash had been withdrawn at 17 adult clubs in recent years and less than a week after The Times reported that more than half the casinos and state-licensed poker rooms in California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“We'll take a wide-ranging look and apply some common sense to the list of outlets where cash assistance should not be withdrawn,” Department of Social Services spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez wrote in an e-mail to The Times on Tuesday evening, announcing that her department had “taken steps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and truly all for that,” said Merle Matias, manager at Sam’s Hofbrau in downtown Los Angeles, where $2,159 had been withdrawn, according to Department of Social Services officials.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Star Strip manager Joey Mancini said state officials must be wrong about the $1,265 they said had been withdrawn from his club’s ATM.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)

The real issue is how much of the money was spent at the casino, not how much was withdrawn from the ATM machines... finding out how much was spent would have taken some real investigative journalism.... instead you give us this sensationalistic hack job...certainly not up to the standards of the LA Times.

Get rid of welfare! It creates a culture of irresponsibility.

My guess is that some Republican ringers got paid by the Republicans explicitly to discredit the disenfranchised masses!
Thank you for nothing Republican Hate Machine!
No one believes your lies!

The is a typical Republican smear campaign. How about the Republicans start reporting how much they take in through bribes!

The Republicans are trying to snow you because they have only that ....Bimbo Palin making headlines for them.
Last I heard she was dumpster diving for a half eaten bologna sandwich!

It will cost the state more to enforce this than it is paying out at these establishments.

The Republicans put this story out to counter the Democrats success in getting a bill passed today!
KMA Republicans! Take your hate mongering somewhere else!

This is not surprising to me at all. A while back, I was at Costco buying food and housing items. While waiting in the checkout like, I stood behind two adult women who had a cart full of filet mignon, lobster and crab legs. I thought, "I want to go to their house for dinner!" So as they got their items scanned, I was unloading my cart. I was about as shocked as the cashier was to see these women pay for this "gourmet food" with what- FOOD STAMPS! No kidding. Then after I was done checking out, I went to my car and saw the same women next to my car. What kind of car where they driving? A brand new Escalade with 20 inch rims! Why would someone who can afford a $50-60K car need to buy food with food stamps? They don't. They are just abusing the system. I'm sure there are lots of people who really need the help, but we need some sort of reform on these welfare programs to make sure that the people who need it, get it; and the ones who STEAL from all of us, go to jail.

Did the article say if the recipients were male or female? There are quite a few strippers who are on welfare. Where'd you think they would cash their checks?

Great idea giving people who can't manage their money an ATM card. Remove anyone from the roles that spends taxpayer dollars at casinos and strip clubs. There is an old fashioned word for people like this- Shame!

Bad enough they breed like rabbits and block the prisons. I think it is time for Soylent Green. That is the only way these people will produce anything useful or beneficial to society.

if the state gave me an atm card, that's how i would spend it!

Toil and pay all ye tax slaves. The Redistributees need their table dances.

Government and LA TIMES need to check and investigate not only welfare recipients committing fraud but also those who continue to receive SSI and unemployment checks even when they are back in their home countries like the Philippines and Mexico. This has been an ongoing abuse of the system.

That's pretty bad, but 12 Grand over 3 years over the entire huge and populous state is not exactly earth-shattering news.

My guess is that'd barely "make it rain" at some of those clubs.

Seconding jj- lately, there has been way too much "blame the illegals" going on in these LA Times comments. BP oil spill? Blame the illegals! Bank bailout? Blame the illegals! My coffee is cold- blame the illegals!

If you feel so passionately about the issue, why don't you buy yourself a gun, go down to the border, and shoot yourself some illegal aliens? The fact that you don't, but instead spend your time whining and moaning on the internet is proof that you're all talk. So just stop with the hate preaching, and like what jj said, learn the details as they emerge.

I say Abolish Welfare...Enough is Enough, Over here in Little Armenia we have a different problem....Welfare Recipients driving top of the line German Cars, Living in run down apartments, and pay with Food Stamps

E N O U G H is E N O U G H !

Undocumented persons ie illegal immigrants can qualify for welfare, food stamps and medical. They receive aid and food stamps for their American born children but not themselves. But the money goes to them. Also they can get MediCal for certain chronic physical ailments as well as for being pregnant. But you are right about the govt being able to detect fake SSN. Funny thing is the county government will know they are using faking SSN at their taco bell job but they qualify for welfare due to low income and lots of dependents and they are never reported to federal government for using fake SSN. As for this issue, there is much fraud with welfare. Many work under the table, many get unreported child support or assistance from other family members. But others do really need it and it is difficult to investigate for the cheaters.

How this have any bearing on welfare. This is discussing withdrawing money at a location, not what people use it for. A person can draw money from an ATM next to a church and buy cocaine with it. Hello? What's the point?

Isn't liberalism wonderful?! Thanks Democrats, for giving us an economy where half the state is on welfare and the other half is here illegally!!!!

Isn't liberalism wonderful?! Thanks Democrats, for giving us an economy where half the state is on welfare and the other half is here illegally!!!!

"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. "

Seriously Mike, that is a theory that only an ACLU lawyer could come up with.

It sounds like they should also check the video from the cameras on the ATMs to see if the proper people are accessing the money. My first guess would be that the registered owners of these cards have sold them off for pennies on the dollar for quick cash.


Here's an idea Schwarzenegger:

Trace the withdrawal transactions back to the welfare card owners, and TAKE THEM AWAY PERMANENTLY.

Easy to do.

Makes sense, right "Governor" ?

Since you have to be a single-parent parent to get Cal-Works ("welfare"), and 99% of single parents are women, they're obviously the women who work there.

Ask any convenience store worker. When welfare or any taxpayer checks come out, they have to stock up on cigarettes and beer. Dope dealers do more business. I am not complaining. For people who are dead weight and who will never will contribute to humanity, cigarettes, booze, and dope help reduce life spans which in turn help save our social security system.
For those who have their heads screwed on right, I suggest that they never smoke, take any kind of dope, never get drunk, don't drive after drinking and don't ride with drivers who have been drinking. Use seat belts and follow driving laws.

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