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Food stamp scammers are 'hemorrhaging money'

Authorities say a ring of organized criminals has stolen people's personal EBT card information and pilfered their accounts.
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Los Angeles Times
Today's Headlines
Click to view images Los Angeles police and federal officers arrest a man suspected of committing EBT card fraud at an ATM in Tarzana. (Rebecca Ellis/Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey

Hello, it's Thursday, Feb. 9, and here are the stories you shouldn't miss today:

TOP STORIES

Brazen food stamp scammers steal millions from L.A.'s poorest. Money meant for the lowest-income Los Angeles County residents is being siphoned from their EBT cards in record amounts. Authorities say a ring of organized criminals has stolen people's personal EBT card information and pilfered their accounts.

They strike early in the morning of the first few days of every month — hours, sometimes minutes after the state deposits benefits onto the cards. They do the same with food stamps, which the state also deposits on EBT cards, then rack up mammoth bills at grocery stores.

Some of the county's poorest residents will wake up to discover a month of food or rent money they were relying on has vanished — even though their EBT card never left their wallet.

Crews search for earthquake victims. In the days since a catastrophic magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 11,600 and injuring multiple more, rescue workers and volunteers have swarmed into affected areas. Officials said Wednesday that more than 100,000 disaster relief personnel were in the earthquake zone.

That includes Antakya, a well-appointed city in Turkey's southwest that — though at least 120 miles away from the temblor's epicenter — is one of the country's most devastated.

Layoffs at Disney. Bob Iger, in his first earnings call since returning to the company, announced Walt Disney Co. will shed 7,000 jobs as part of a broader effort to save $5.5 billion in costs.

Disney is facing pressure to control costs and boost profits as it continues to lose money from its key streaming business, which includes Disney+.

Still behind bars. One in 3 Californians granted mercy by Gov. Newsom remain in prison. Gov. Newsom has granted 123 commutations, or reductions of sentences, since he became governor in 2019. But as of January, a third of those people remained behind bars — in some cases years after the governor's recommendations, according to data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

That's due largely to Newsom's decision to defer to the parole board in the vast majority of his commutations.

SB 147: Texans of Chinese descent wonder if they're welcome. Texas Senate Bill 147 would ban citizens of China from buying property in the state. Details of the proposed law, which would also target citizens of Iran, North Korea and Russia, are still being worked out, according to its Republican sponsor. But many are anxious about what the coming months in Texas might hold.

The legislation arrives as anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise, and critics say it evokes an ugly history of anti-Asian discrimination facilitated by state and federal law.

Check out "The Times" podcast for essential news and more.

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you're seeking a more balanced news diet, "The Times" podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

In Antakya, Turkey, people warm up by a fire amid the rubble caused by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
In Antakya, Turkey, people warm up by a fire amid the rubble caused by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. (Tom Nicholson/Tom Nicholson)

CALIFORNIA

A new deputy 'gang' is forming in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, a lawsuit alleges. Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies are forming a new "gang" in the agency's East L.A. station, according to a deputy who alleges in a lawsuit he was abused when he refused to join the group.

L.A. is shutting down its largest gas plant — and replacing it with an unproven hydrogen project. Critics said the $800-million green hydrogen plan could end up making the climate crisis worse, not better.

Cal State Fullerton feared a student had sent a campus threat. It was just a bad Nintendo joke. A person sent an email urging a professor to cancel class the next day due to a "once-in-a-lifetime event," saying that the professor should do so "for the good of humanity," according to campus police.

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NATION-WORLD

Two Army veterans deported to Mexico gain U.S. citizenship. After fighting in Afghanistan, former U.S. Army soldier Mauricio Hernandez Mata returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder, which eventually led to getting in trouble with the law and being deported to Mexico. On Wednesday, he and another deported veteran were sworn in as U.S. citizens at a special naturalization ceremony in San Diego.

Lawmakers in GOP states target medical care for trans kids. Lawmakers in Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota considered bills Wednesday that would prohibit gender affirming treatments, such as the use of puberty-blocking drugs and hormones, despite the endorsement of such treatments by major medical associations.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Fox Nation star Roseanne Barr may forgive Hollywood, but she'll never forget. Roseanne Barr, one of TV's most electric personalities, told The Times that being fired from her show over a late-night tweet almost five years ago was a "witch burning," but she's plotting her comeback.

These L.A. reality stars are perfectly happy to be part of Hollywood's 'middle class.' Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz, stars of reality TV's "Vanderpump Rules," looked back at their life on reality T.V. and shared how it helped them achieve success. Here's why Shwartz said "middle-class show business is a good place to be."

BUSINESS

Some Twitter users are unable to post, told they're 'over daily limit.' Glitches also plagued other features within the Twitter app. Some users were unable to access direct messages, and others couldn't follow additional accounts.

OPINION

Editorial: Cars, poisons are killing California's cougars. Time for stronger protections. Vehicle strikes and rodenticides continue to be a threat to mountain lions like Los Angeles' recently departed P-22. A proposed wildlife district ordinance would provide some habitat protection for lions among other wildlife.

Commentary: LeBron James, Gustavo Dudamel, L.A.'s world-famous hometown heroes. On the day that conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who opened a pathway to classical music for so many, announced he was leaving the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Lakers' LeBron James became the highest scorer in NBA history. And now one of them is leaving for New York.

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SPORTS

Lakers trade Russell Westbrook to Jazz, and acquire D'Angelo Russell and two others. The Lakers are excited to get young players in Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt and address the shooting issues that have plagued them all season, sources said.

Chiefs' JuJu Smith-Schuster is hoping L.A. will catch his act in Super Bowl LVII. Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster began his career at Long Beach Poly and USC, and says he's representing L.A. in the 2023 Super Bowl against the Eagles.

ONLY IN L.A.

Shannon Graham smokes marijuana with his dog
Shannon Graham smokes a joint inside the Reefer Madness lounge in Palm Springs. Currently 10 dispensaries in that desert city are licensed for on-site cannabis consumption. By comparison, San Francisco has 14, West Hollywood has two and L.A. has none. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Palm Springs' weed lounge game is hot right now — especially compared to L.A. Angelenos looking for a variety of communal cannabis experiences — legal ones, anyway — might want to consider road-tripping to Palm Springs for a weed weekend. That's because while Los Angeles hasn't issued a single consumption lounge license (the only two in the area are in West Hollywood), Palm Springs has issued 10, according to the most recent list provided by the desert city.

Four of them are right in the heart of downtown Palm Springs; one is a full-blown concert venue; and at least two inhabit former bank buildings (ironic because cannabis' illegal status at the federal level means the businesses are foreclosed from many traditional banking services).

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A girl is seen from behind with a round button in her hair that reads
Aug. 24, 1964: A young fan in L.A. wears a Beatles button in her hair. (Los Angeles Times)

Fifty-nine years ago, the Beatles made their U.S. live television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" as 73 million people tuned in, the largest audience in history at that time. The English band's appearance ignited American hysteria over the group and its music on a scale unmatched to this day.

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today's Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com.

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