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SNAP Charging Letter – What Not to Say to the USDA

SNAP benefits are issued to millions of US residents each year, and they come with strict laws. There are many laws in effect for both those who use SNAP benefits and those who accept them. If you are a store or business owner who accepts SNAP benefits, you might receive a SNAP charging letter in the mail at some point in your career accepting these benefits. A charging letter alleges there was a SNAP benefits misconduct report during a specific store visit. Perhaps you accepted SNAP benefits for a case of beer when a new employee was on the register and simply made a mistake. It might be a very valid charging letter or one that is completely startling to you.

When you receive a SNAP charging letter in the mail, you are going to experience several emotions that range from confusion to anger to fear. It’s normal, and you have a chance to respond to the charging letter with a letter of your own outlining what you believe happened, what you have to say, and what you want to do to rectify or dispute a situation. What to say in this letter is important, but it’s what not to say in this response that’s even more important to the outcome of this allegation.

Do Not Call the USDA

It’s easy to assume you should call the USDA right away and discuss the contents of your SNAP benefits letter so they know you didn’t do anything wrong. This is not the right thing to do. It’s imperative you do not pick up the phone and make this call right away. You must have an attorney read the letter and come up with a response for you. USDA agents are trained to ask questions that require answers that might come across as admissions of guilt. If you say even one thing that comes across as an admission of guilt, your business could be shut down immediately. Do not make this call without first discussing your case with an attorney.

Do Not Agree to “Off the Record” Conversations

These are not real conversations. Everything you say is being recorded, notated, and will be used against you. Do not agree to carry on a conversation if someone agrees to keep it off the record. They are not doing this, and you are incriminating yourself and your business. Keep all conversations on the record.

Do Not Place Blame

Do not take responsibility for anything, but do not go the route of blaming someone who works for you. You might think that telling the USDA that you hired a new employee who simply didn’t know that he was doing something wrong on the register is a good idea, but it’s not. The USDA doesn’t care if someone make a mistake. They want to know that it happened, and they will use your accusation against an employee as your confession. You might still see your business shut down.

Do Not Admit Wrongdoing

Even saying something as simple as “We will definitely get to the bottom of this and figure out what happened on our end to see why this violation occurred,” when you speak to a SNAP agent. You must never allude to the possibility anything happened at your place of business. You must always respond with your belief that this is a mistake on their part and no wrongdoing occurred at your business. Never even accept the possibility wrongdoing occurred at your place of business.

When it comes to speaking to the USDA in response to a SNAP charging letter, denial is the way to go. Say nothing incriminating, and do not even entertain the idea something wrong happened at your place of business. Even better yet, do not speak to anyone without first consulting with your attorney and finding out what he or she believes you should do next.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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