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The Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program And Grocery Stores
The United States Departure of Agriculture created the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is also known as the SNAP program. The purpose of this program is to ensure that people who have limited income can still go in the grocery store and buy the food that they need. There are many grocery stores that are located in low-income areas. That is why many grocery stores accept SNAP customers.
There are benefits to both the customers and the store itself if they accept SNAP customers. SNAP customers won’t have to travel to a distant place to get affordable food. They will also make their paychecks stretch further. Grocery stores that accept SNAP have the opportunity to bring in more money. However, there are some problems that can occur if a grocery store accepts SNAP.
What Happens When the Rules Are Not Followed
There is a list of rules that you will have to follow if you decide to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program customers. It is important to familiarize yourself with those rules so that you can avoid getting into trouble. All of the purchases will be monitored by the USDA. If there is any fraud detected, then it will be investigated. The investigators may also ask you to show your books so they can see exactly how the benefits are being used.
How Stores Can Create Food Stamp Fraud
When people think about the term food stamp fraud, they typically think about the individuals. However, it is common for grocery store works to commit fraud. There are several ways that fraud can committed. It is common for people who work at grocery stores to buy food stamps from their customers.
People may also charge someone for a transaction that they did not make. For example, a person’s groceries total up to $100. A person can commit food stamp fraud by charging the customer $200.
Additionally, a grocery store can be charged with fraud if they allow a customer to make purchases for items that are excluded from SNAP benefits. This includes things such as hot food, tobacco and alcohol.
Types of Penalties That You Can Face for Food Stamp Fraud
It is imperative that you hire a SNAP defense attorney if you have been accused of food stamp fraud. There are dire consequences that you may face. Fines are the most common consequence. You may be ordered to pay a fine up to $100,000 for every infraction.
Additionally, a penalty can result in a temporary or permanent disqualification. If the judge decides to temporarily suspend your SNAP benefits, then they will likely be suspended for 12 to 24 months. You won’t be able to accept SNAP as payment during this time.
If weapons and alcohol are purchased in exchange for SNAP benefits, then this will likely result in a permanent disqualification. You can also get permanently disqualified if you commit multiple SNAP violations.
It is important to note that a permanent disqualification can do a lot of harm to your business. You won’t be able to accept as many customers as you did in the past. This loss of revenue can force you to close your grocery store.
The Violation Letter
The United States Department of Agriculture will be notified of the fraud that you have committed. It is important for you to open this letter and respond to it as quickly as you can. They will give you a list of documents that you have to fill out and send back.
You will also need to call an attorney as soon as you get your letter. You may not want to try to defend yourself against the allegations because you may end up saying something that will incriminate you. Attorneys know what to say and how to defend you against the charges.
The Three Step Process
There are three steps involved in the process of determining whether you will be punished for SNAP fraud. You will get your letter. After that, you will get an administrative appeal. You will have 10 days to respond to this letter just like the first letter. The final phase is the judicial appeal. The USDA will have to decide whether they want to overturn their decision or go forward with the case. You will have to stand before the judge during this process.
Why It Is Important to Hire An Attorney
There are different defenses that your attorney can use. You may be able to avoid having to pay a fine or get disqualified from accepting SNAP benefits. The ruling that is made by USDA is not permanent. Everything can be contested in court. The USDA is serious about punishing people who take advantage of SNAP benefits. However, a competent attorney can ensure that you have aggressive representation that you need.
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