At the Spodek Law Group, we handle SNAP violation cases nationwide. We help our clients with virtually EVERYTHING, ranging from SNAP compliance, to SNAP judicial appeals, in addition to SNAP suspension, and disqualification. We take action on your behalf to help you save your business, and prevent it from losing permanent EBT transactions.
Work with our SNAP violation attorneys to help you build a strong defense
SNAP is a replacement for the Food Stamp program. It was introduced in the 1990’s. Participants in this program are given a set amount of benefits each month for purchasing food items. Eligible individuals can use an EBT card, which can only be used for food. Specific rules govern how EBT cards can be used in stores. Any violation of these rules by a grocery store, convenience store, etc, can be perceived as food stamp fraud.
EBT Card Use
EBT cards look similar to traditional debit cards, but there are some differences
- SNAP benefits on EBT cards can’t be used for general items
- SNAP benefits cannot be used for cash-back
Eligible EBT families can get up to $632 for a family of four. Individuals can get $189 worth of benefits per month. These amounts depend on the household income, # of household members, and a few other circumstances.
SNAP Violation Letters
The US government has rules in place that govern the use of EBT cards. Enforcement is carried out by the FNS, which is a division of the USDA. In most cases, food retailers adhere to these guidelines without any issues. Sometimes, however, a store might be found to have committed food stamp fraud. The FNS will send a SNAP violation letter in situations like this. If your store gets one of these food stamp investigation letters, you only have 10 days to respond. If you fail to respond in this time period, the eligibility of your store to accept EBT could be suspended or terminated. It’s critical you reach out to a SNAP violation attorney immediately if you get a SNAP violation letter. One of our lawyers can contact FNS on your behalf, and protect your ability to get SNAP funds. Often, retailers may not be aware they violated SNAP rules. Sometimes, this happens when employees are violating the laws without telling their employers. SNAP is a federal program, which is implemented by each state.
Who is responsible for investigating SNAP fraud?
If you get a SNAP fraud letter, it means an investigation already happened. It also means you have a chance to respond, and take part, in the investigation. Your primary contact in this investigation will be the FNS, as part of the USDA. The investigation by the FNS began with a complaint, or a review of your records due to an inconsistency. Food stamp fraud lawyers can help you through an investigation if you get a SNAP charge letter.
What are examples of SNAP fraud?
If your store gets a SNAP violation letter, it might be due to one or more of the reasons below.
Trafficking is where transactions are fraudulently accepted. Trafficking can happen in one of several ways. Sometimes it can be intentional, or unintentional.
Accepting unqualified purchases: Only qualified purchases through an EBT card are allowed. That means food, and non-alcoholic drinks, which are consumed at home after being purchased. Examples of unqualified purchases include medicine, vitamins, tobacco, alcohol, etc.
False SNAP application: The violation means you submitted false information on your store’s EBT benefits application.
Inaccurate Coupon Accounting: This happens when a coupon is redeemed for higher in dollar value than the dollar value of the food sold.
Maintaining a “tab” for EBT benefits: This is a type of SNAP Violation when the store returns maintains a tab for a customer, in exchange for using the EBT cards.
What are the penalties of SNAP fraud?
The USDA has the ability to enforce many food stamp penalties. This can include but is not limited to:
- Civil fine
- EBT terminal suspension
- Permanent disqualification
The penalties can be serious, and can impact your ability to remain in business. Getting a civil fine from USDA can cost your business 10’s of thousands of dollars. The fine can be negotiated with the FNS. It’s good to work with a SNAP violation attorney who can guide you. When you have a temporary suspension of your EBT transactions access, it can have a huge impact on your revenue. Permanent disqualification can mean if you are a convenience store – your business might be over. In rare cases, criminal charges are possible for a SNAP violation.
Civil Monetary Penalty
The USDA is allowed to enforce a civil penalty against any store that is convicted of trafficking. The degree of the fine will depend on the number of offenses, volume of transactions, and the gravity of the allegations. If your retail store has a compliance program in place, the USDA will likely give you a civil penalty — otherwise, you might face suspended access, or permanent disqualification.