In what federal authorities call the biggest food stamp fraud in U.S. history, 22 people in South Florida have been charged with bilking the government’s modern-day bread line for $13 million. Even worse, the scam brings into serious question the very purpose of today’s “food stamps.”

The fraud involved the bogus use of electronic benefit transfer cards under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The cards are designated for the purchase of approved foods and, supposedly, are not redeemable for cash, authorities said.

But that’s exactly what they were redeemed for at the Opa Locka Hialeah Flea Market, where some retailers allegedly swiped the cards for an inflated sum, then, allegedly, paid a cut to thousands of card holders.

The defendants face a slew of charges. And the card holders? An official says they will be “sanctioned.”

Apart from SNAP being gamed for such a large sum, the bigger issue is why people presumably in need of food are using their meal tickets to feed their pockets instead.

And this, when the number of “able-bodied adults” without dependants on SNAP more than doubled since 2009.

Thirteen million is a lot of cash that didn’t go to food — or at least not what’s on the SNAP menu. If that many people in just one state are cashing out their food cards, a closer look at the government’s “nutritional assistance” is in order.

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