Tuesday, February 20, 2001
Steamboat Springs A 26-year-old Steamboat Springs man said he honestly believes that $10,000 mistakenly credited to his food stamp debit card was his to spend.
On Tuesday from the Routt County Jail, Sascha Karl Fischer explained by phone why he bought $4,000 worth of meat and seafood in one day and how he believes he is being unfairly punished for it.
"It never once occurred to me that this was a mistake," Fischer said. "I didn't figure they would give me something I was not entitled to. This was from the government."
On Jan. 31, Fischer found out he had $10,600 in his food stamp account. A Routt County Human Services worker, had mistakenly credited Fischer's account with the wrong amount the day before.
While adjusting Fischer's food stamp benefit, the worker determined he was to receive $106 in food assistance. When she entered the amount into a computer, however, the worker mistakenly credited the account with $10,600.
Fischer found out about the balance when he called a toll-free telephone number.
"I called the 800-number two or three times to verify the amount," Fischer said. "I thought it was authentic."
Fischer then went to a local grocery store to make a purchase.
According to court documents, Fischer bought a pack of gum and then asked the clerk how much remained on his debit card.
When Fischer found out the card had more than $10,000 on it he "was in a state of euphoria," he said. "I was really hungry."
Fischer then allegedly bought more than $4,000 worth of meat and seafood from three area grocery stores. That one-day shopping spree landed Fischer in jail on a felony theft charge.
Fischer said he believes the money in his account was his because he thought the government was reimbursing him for underpaying past benefits.
For the past six years, Fischer has received a disability check and food stamps from the government. He said he qualified for the assistance because of a head injury he suffered as a kickboxer. in Alaska
"I really thought the amount was a retro account for the assistance I had been receiving," he said. "I thought this was for a small amount that the government had been withholding from me over a long period of time. All I knew is I had the debit card and the amount was on there."
Fischer, who was born in Germany, moved from Alaska to Steamboat Springs a little more than a year ago.
According to court documents, Fischer started to receive food stamps here last June. The most he received for a month was $130.
Fischer said he thought he had a limited amount of time to spend the money.
"I bought a large amount of meat and seafood because I had a freezer," he said. "I did not buy much canned food because I had limited cupboard space.
"I went out and bought what I thought a refrigerator, a freezer and cooler could hold. I did over-shop a little, but I was not planning on using the food for anything but consumption."
Fischer allegedly bought expensive cuts of meat and seafood that included lobster.
"I bought the lobster and other expensive food because I have never in my life been able to afford it," he said. "I wanted to try it."
Sheriff's office officials did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment about what happened to the perishable food that was confiscated from Fischer.