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Knox Man Charged in Heroin, Food Stamp Fraud Scheme

A Knox County man has been charged in connection with a fraud scheme in which authorities say he accepted payments through food stamp cards in exchange for cash and heroin.

James Allan Hampton Jr., 52, was taken into custody Tuesday on 21 felony warrants, including charges of theft, food stamp fraud, identity theft, sale and delivery of Schedule I drugs and computer crimes, according to the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

Hampton is accused of running a business, Volunteer Meat and Seafood, as a front for the EBT card/drug scheme.

"That's taxpayer money — pure taxpayer money," said KCSO Assistant Chief Lee Tramel. "We can't find anything, no business license, no sales tax records, that Volunteer Meat and Seafood has paid on any of this."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Human Services also are investigating. Additional arrests are expected, the chief said.

Tramel said Hampton ran the scheme out of a van and used a mobile card reader to charge the prepaid food stamp cards. Hampton accepted an EBT card payment in exchange for heroin from undercover officers on at least one occasion, Tramel added.

Authorities served a search warrant on Hampton's North Knox County home in the Timberlake subdivision Tuesday afternoon.

It was the latest in a series of KCSO sting operations targeting businesses that authorities say perpetuate crime and drug addiction.

"This is pure greed ... this type of fraud is literally taking food out of children's mouths," Tramel said. "These cards are issued to people who run up on tough times, to feed their families. And this is doing nothing but perpetuating a drug epidemic."

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