A proposal by the Trump administration to reform the federal food stamp program is drawing fire from anti-poverty advocates and big city mayors, who say it could cause millions of people — including children, seniors and people with disabilities — to go hungry.
The administration says the changes are necessary to address more than 3 million people that it says may be improperly receiving benefits under the program, which is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
That begs the question, how much waste, fraud and abuse is there in the program, which serves some 40 million Americans?
"It's an epidemic," Todd Spodek, a New York attorney who represents individuals and retailers accused of SNAP fraud, said in an interview with CNBC's "American Greed."
"Anytime you have a public welfare system where millions of dollars are at their disposal, someone's going to be creative enough to try to find a loophole to take advantage of it."
Among the most flagrant abuses was the $2 million scam masterminded by Lyle Jeffs, the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs, the brother of jailed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, is serving a five-year federal prison sentence after admitting he forced church members beginning in 2011 to illegally divert their SNAP benefits to the church's "storehouse," allowing the church — and him personally — to profit while members went hungry.
"It was very difficult as a mother to watch my kids go without. To have a little child come and ask for food and I had nothing to give him," former church member Cheryl Barlow told "American Greed."
Lyle Jeffs, meanwhile, was living a lavish lifestyle complete with a personal chef.