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SNAP Grocery Store Defense

April 27, 2021 Uncategorized

As more and more violations involving SNAP and food stamp fraud have occurred over the past decade, the federal government has stepped up its efforts to come down hard on those they believe are guilty of such violations. Unfortunately, this has meant grocery store managers and owners of small, local neighborhood stores have been targeted by the United States Department of Agriculture. When this happens, the results can range from suspensions of accepting EBT to permanent disqualification and large fines that can be assessed many years later if necessary. Once you find yourself in the crosshairs of the USDA, you need to work with an attorney who understands how to plan a vigorous defense for your grocery store.

Complex Rules and Regulations
Like any federal government program, SNAP is strictly regulated by the USDA and has rules and regulations that are constantly changing each year. Because of this, it has become much easier for grocery store owners, managers, and employees to make mistakes when entering EBT information into their cash registers. Yet even if your mistakes were innocent, the USDA will nevertheless decide to prosecute you and your store to the fullest extent of the law. Upon receiving a charge letter from the USDA, you will find out what the agency is alleging, how it arrived at its conclusion, and what steps it may be considering taking against you and your business. Since you may have just over one week to appeal, you will have no time to waste, which is why you should immediately speak to a lawyer who specializes in SNAP grocery store defense.

Always Retain an Attorney
If you are not familiar with SNAP penalties, you may think the USDA is simply trying to scare you with its charge letter, and will ultimately take little if any action against you and your business. However, that is far from what may actually happen. Since the USDA is under constant pressure from Congress to wipe out SNAP violations, the agency’s investigators will closely examine each and every detail involving your EBT transactions. Whether this involves detailed examinations of your transaction records or actually conducting undercover investigations at your store, the results can be devastating for you both professionally and personally. In fact, you may find your store never being allowed to accept EBT ever again, be forced to close or sell your business, and even have difficulty obtaining personal loans in the future for homes or cars. To keep you and your family from suffering through this humiliation and financial ruin, always retain an attorney immediately to protect your legal rights in these matters.

Defending Your Actions
When the USDA notifies you of its plan to pursue legal action against you and your store, it will be important that you be able to defend whatever actions you took regarding the alleged violations. For example, with SNAP rules always changing, you need to work with your attorney to show you had no previous problems in the years prior to any rules changes. Also, you may need to show that employees who were entering EBT into a cash register did not fully understand the new rules and procedures. Whatever the case may be, being able to defend your actions in a logical manner will be vital to helping you get this serious matter resolves as soon as possible.

Watch What You Say
Like in any legal situation where criminal allegations are made, you should always watch what you say to USDA investigators and other government officials associated with your case. To begin with, none of your conversations with USDA officials will be off the record, which means each and every word you say can and probably will be used against you. Also, don’t think you can negotiate your way out of this situation, because the USDA never negotiates settlements in these matters. Instead, you should choose to hire a skilled SNAP grocery store defense attorney to speak for you from day one. By doing so, you can avoid getting coerced into saying something that sounds as if you have admitted guilt.

Don’t Play the Blame Game
When store owners or managers first become aware of potential charges from the USDA, many believe that if they pass the blame for any mistakes that were made to their employees, then they will be off the hook with the USDA. However, that is not how this process works. Even if it is quite clear any SNAP violations were made by your employees, you as the manager or owner are still held responsible for whatever may have occurred on your watch. Thus, playing the blame game won’t work in these circumstances. Instead, you should carefully discuss what you believe happened with your SNAP grocery store defense attorney. By doing so, they can examine records, evidence the USDA claims to have against you, and other information that can lead to a much more lenient penalty being assessed against you and your store.

Compliance is the Key to Success
Naturally, you want to do all you can to avoid ever being in a position where the USDA can accuse you of SNAP violations. To make this happen, compliance is the key to success. By keeping abreast of the latest rules changes, making sure your employees are aware of any changes and are trained on new procedures, and emphasizing compliance each step of the way, you can usually avoid any serious legal situations. However, should you do all this and still find the USDA is determined to make an example out of you and your grocery store, don’t be intimidated and assume you have no recourse. Instead, schedule an immediate meeting with a SNAP grocery store defense attorney.



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