HRA Food Stamps Investigations
An issue that American society is facing currently is Food Stamp Trafficking Fraud because it’s difficult for people to afford to pay for basic non-food necessities. SNAP funds are not allowed to be used for anything except food. People who are limited to using SNAP funds do not have the flexibility to participate in other activities that require money.
People have learned and started to trade others their SNAP funds for cash. The United States Department of Agriculture attempts to curb these actions because misuse of these funds is a crime. Fraudulent use of SNAP funds takes billions of dollars away from the program, which is funded by American taxpayers. The practice is also dangerous because the funds aren’t always used for necessities. Some people trade them for dangerous items such as firearms, ammunition, or drugs and alcohol. It hurts the economy and people when illegal substances are trafficked in the economy with taxpayer funds.
While these individuals may be trying to get through every day in any way that they can, the methods used are illegal according to the program guidelines. The crime of Food Stamp Trafficking Fraud is punishable according to the law. The purpose of SNAP formally called the Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program, is to aid those in society who are less fortunate to meet basic nutritional guidelines. Unemployment was high at the time the program was created, and the government needed to take action to help vulnerable members of society gain more equality and stabilization in the economy.
The USDA must ensure that individuals and families have access to locations that accept SNAP, which is why some convenience stores have been given the capabilities to accept SNAP. This allows people to use funds even if they aren’t close to a grocery store.
Some convenience store owners violate the rules of the program by utilizing ways to increase their profits by giving cash to recipients in exchange for SNAP funds. The Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 classifies Retailer Food Stamp Fraud as a severe crime. Misusing the funds adds corruption to the economy, and the Human Resource Administration or HRA is responsible for investigating people or businesses suspected of Food Stamp Fraud. The HRA is under the management of the Bureau of Fraud Investigations. The investigators are located in multiple cities across the country, but headquarters is located in Brooklyn, NY on Schermerhorn Street.
The HRA investigates anyone that they suspect of Food Stamp Fraud through an in-depth investigation that begins with sending a letter to the business owner informing them of the requirements to participate in the SNAP program. They also request documentation to aid in the investigation such as utility bills, tax documents, and bank statements.
An in-depth investigation is necessary to bring forth actions that may have occurred in violation of the program. The accused can face an in-person interview if there is any evidence of fraud.
People who receive SNAP are also responsible for fraudulent actions. It is typically harder to locate an individual abusing the program than it is to pinpoint a business. The HRA will scrutinize documents such as application forms, bank statements, and other documents tied to a participant’s social security number to ensure they’re legitimate and haven’t been altered in an attempt to de-fraud the government. The investigators examine the forms for inconsistencies and may even go as far as contacting the individual’s employer to verify that their income qualifies the household to receive SNAP benefits.
All individuals who have a meeting with the HRA should prepare and bring original copies of the required documents. It’s up to the accused to determine if they want to go alone or bring along someone with knowledge of the law. The accused is presented with the violations or suspicions and evidence that was obtained during the investigation for the HRA to prove their case. The accused has an opportunity to defend themselves and explain if the allegations are true or false.
The HRA usually offers retailers the option to have their license to accept SNAP suspended or pay a fine for violating the program. The case proceeds to court if the business or individual is found guilty, where a jury will determine the ultimate decision. The ideal option is to pay for the damages voluntarily because it allows the owner to keep their permit to accept SNAP.