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Lawyers For SNAP Dismissal of Trafficking Charges

April 28, 2021 Uncategorized

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides eligible individuals with food benefits every month. The benefits are issued on an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. The United States Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service Agency regulates SNAP.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Agency defines EBT trafficking as

  • Stealing, buying, or selling an EBT card for cash
  • Using an EBT card or SNAP benefits for the exchange of explosives, ammunition, drugs, or guns
  • Using an EBT card to buy food or other products with the intention of reselling the items to another individual
  • Returning an EBT food purchase for cash or store credit
  • Allowing cash back for SNAP transactions

SNAP Trafficking

According to the USDA, SNAP trafficking can be violated directly or indirectly. SNAP trafficking is one of the more common SNAP violations among retailers and can lead to serious penalties that could include

Permanent Disqualification From SNAP
Permanent disqualification could be sanctioned from SNAP if the retailer

  • committed trafficking as defined in § 271.2
  • Committed repeated violations
  • Knowingly submitted false information that could affect the retailers eligibility

Temporary Disqualification From SNAP
Temporary disqualification of 5 years will be sanctioned if it’s a retailer’s first violation. Furthermore, a temporary disqualification will be issued if the retailer was previously warned that SNAP violations were taking place and evidence shows

  • SNAP redemptions for a set time frame exceeded food sales in the same period
  • The retailer allows an individual to purchase ineligible items, such as cigarettes or alcohol, with SNAP benefits
  • The retailer knowingly accepted payment via SNAP benefits when the buyer was not legally entitled to the benefits

A retailer may be disqualified from participating in SNAP for 3 years if evidence shows

  • The retailer has been previously advised that violations were occurring and continued violate SNAP regulations
  • Personnel knowingly submitted an application with false information that involved annual retail food sales, financial information, store name, store location, number of cash registers, or nonfood inventory
  • The retailer engaged in SNAP transactions with other authorized retailers after being warned of the possibility that violations were occurring

A retailer may be disqualified for one year if evidence shows

  • It was the retailers first sanction
  • The retailer allowed SNAP benefits to be used as payment for ineligible items that were sold to an individual on credit

If it’s a retailer’s first sanction, and evidence shows that employees were unaware they committed violations, it will disqualify the retailer for 6 months.

Monetary Penalties
If a retailer has been sanctioned with a SNAP violation that mandates disqualification, a monetary penalty may enforced in place of the disqualification if it would cause a hardship on SNAP participants in the area. This typically occurs when the retailer is the only one in the area that sells a wide range of eligible food items.

What happens When a Retailer is Charged with EBT Trafficking?

If a retailer is facing EBT trafficking charges, they will receive a charge letter. UPS delivers the letter. There are three ways a retailer can get charged with EBT trafficking. The most common is an EBT case.

What’s in a Charge Letter?

If a retailer receives a charge letter, it will provide an analysis of any records or patterns that indicate the retailer is trafficking. All transactions and the dates that they occurred will be listed in the letter. A charge letter also states that permanent disqualification from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could occur if it’s determined that the retailer committed trafficking. The letter will also have attached exhibits involving each transaction.

Retailer Investigative Branch SNAP Trafficking Letter

The second type of charge letter is sent by the Retailer Investigations Branch. With these cases, a USDA agent secretly shops in the store to collect evidence of violations. These charge letters are accompanied by affidavits and have more details than EBT case charge letters.

Office of Inspector General SNAP Trafficking Letter

The third charge letter involves the Office of Inspector General. These cases typically involve undercover investigations, such as Retailer Investigations Branch cases, but cases that involve the Office of the Inspector General usually involve criminal charges. In many cases, undercover agents for the Office of the Inspector General are trying to find SNAP trafficking rings, and these investigations usually involve multiple retailers.

What You Should do if You Receive a SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter?

A charge letter will state that an accused retailer has the right to legal representation in response to the allegations. In addition, the letter explains that the preliminary determination isn’t permanent. If a retailer show evidence that supports their innocence, the determination can be overturned. The USDA requires that retailers who are accused of SNAP trafficking submit a response to the USDA within 10 days of receiving the letter.

If you’ve received a SNAP charge letter, it’s vital to seek legal advice from an experienced SNAP violation attorney. The charge letter will arrive without warning, and you must submit a response within a timeframe. If you have a skilled SNAP trafficking attorney at your side, it can help you keep your EBT license and avoid monetary penalties.

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