Ohio residents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—colloquially known as the food stamp program—can use those benefits to buy “most food products,” including breads, fruits, vegetables, meat, and even live lobster or shrimp. But according to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, no one who receives SNAP benefits can exchange them for tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, or non-food products like vitamins, pet supplies or, uh, inedible or ornamental gourds.
And here’s where the Ohio State Highway Patrol would probably chime in to remind everyone that food stamps aren’t supposed to be traded for lap dances or illegal drugs, either.
Sharkey’s Lounge, a strip club in Dayton, Ohio, lost its liquor license on Thursday, following a five-month undercover investigation conducted by Highway Patrol agents. According to a release from the department, its agents began investigating Sharkey’s in May 2017, and while they pretended to be patrons, they were “able to purchase drugs and lap dances using food stamp benefits.” The officers were also able to trade $2,404.87 worth of SNAP benefits for an entire Eminem record’s worth of drugs, including methamphetamines, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil.
“A lot of drugs were brought into that community because of that location,” Agent-in-Charge Michelle Thourot told the Dayton Daily News. “Children walk by there every day to go to school. For a place like that to be closed down, to not have people like that coming into the community, is fantastic for the kids and the people living in that area.”
Sharkey’s employees and its regulars are facing a lot of criminal charges, including drug trafficking, food stamp trafficking, aggravated shipment and distribution of heroin and illegal sexual activity.
This bust comes almost exactly a year after The Harem, another Dayton-area strip club, was temporarily closed for similar violations. After a nine-month investigation, officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol indicted 11 people on an assortment of charges that also included illegal sexual activity and illegal use of SNAP or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. The Harem was stripped of its own liquor license in May 2018.
“The undercover agents conducted controlled drug buys at The Harem from a number of the defendants and observed the trading of food stamps and the cards used to obtain food stamps in exchange for sex acts, for lap dances and even illegal drugs,” Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. told the Dayton Daily News. “The undercover agents were propositioned for sex and observed other propositions and proposition transactions. In short, The Harem was being used basically as a sex and drug den.”
We haven’t read the USDA’s full list of Dos and Don’ts for the SNAP program, but we’re pretty sure sex and drugs are both listed under that second category.