Queens Food Stamp Fraud Lawyers
The United States Department does not take food fraud lightly. If you have received a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) violation letter before, then you know that this is a real and serious offense. It is important to know all the legal details surrounding food stamps to avoid getting into trouble with the USDA.
What is SNAP?
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a government subsidy program that provides grocery shopping money to individuals who qualify to help feed them.
Eligible individuals are given an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Card. This is used at the grocery store when shopping. You might have an EBT card for other purposes other than food stamps. This card is issued by the government and resembles an ATM card. Individual benefits are loaded on the card, and they are used to select purchase goods and services.
Not everyone gets an EBT card. More specifically, not everyone is allowed to use their government benefits to buy grocery products. There are several laws governing food stamps that will be discussed below.
EBT technology is available all over America and has been operational since 2004.
What is a Food Stamp Violation?
There are several situations that qualify as food stamp violations, and if you are found to be in violation, then you will be charged with SNAP fraud and sent a SNAP Violation letter.
The following count as food stamp violations:
• If you are a retail store and you have been disqualified as a food stamp retailer before, but lied in one way or another in order to get an application after this, then you will be charged with SNAP fraud.
• Individuals are given SNAP privileges for food purposes. Some people, however, use it to get money in exchange, instead. This is referred to as trafficking and counts as food stamp fraud.
• SNAP benefits are meant for the needy and low-income citizens. However, some people lie on their application in order to get into the program and reap the benefits. Another example is adding the number of beneficiaries in order to receive more benefits. Larger families with many children often receive more benefits than families with fewer or no children.
• Retailers may commit food stamp fraud when they redeem more than what they charged for the goods.
There are some of the common violations.
What Communication Do I Get After I Have Committed A Food Stamp Offense?
The USDA manages the food stamp program. They deal with the application process as well as law enforcement when anyone is found in violation of food stamp laws. It has an integrity arm that deals specifically with this.
There are hotline numbers where anyone can report a suspected case of food stamp fraud.
Among the laws and regulations governing the food stamp program is a list of the food items that can be purchased using the EBT card. These include fish, poultry, meats, dairy products, bread and cereals, vegetable and fruits, and select energy drinks and junk food.
Alcohol, medication, pet food, vitamins, toiletries and ready-to-eat foods are not on the list, and if you are found purchasing these with your EBT card, you will be charged with stamp fraud.
If you have just received a SNAP violation letter, don’t panic, just call us for a consultation.
Usually, the USDA sends a charging letter, also referred to as a SNAP violation letter. Most people don’t know this, but you have the right to respond to the letter and deny the allegations against you. Of course, this is best done with an attorney to give you the right advice.
There are certain instances when the charges may be dropped if an explanation is provided. However, in other cases, you will have to appear before the court. This is called a judicial review and is often done in Federal District Court. You will need a lawyer to represent you in court.
How Serious is a Stamp Fraud Charge?
The USDA is invested in investigating and prosecuting food stamp offenses and has 100 investigators tasked with looking into allegations. They can go as far as working undercover in your store.
Food stamp fraud has been almost made redundant by the EBT cards. These cards make it hard to get cash, drugs and other illegal substances from the food stamp money that recipients receive.
However, fraud still occurs. Small convenience stores still experience and facilitate food stamp fraud. Trafficking is the most common food fraud. Individuals go to the store and are given cash instead of groceries. The store benefits by giving them less money than they have charged on the card.
On conviction, offenders could be disqualified from the program, be charged civil penalties or be criminally charged.
Whatever your case, call us today to avoid being permanently disqualified from the program.
May 17, 2018
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