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You might be a food stamp recipient that’s facing an allegation of food stamp fraud. On the other hand, you may be a store owner that’s accused of improperly accepting food stamp benefits. Either way, an allegation of food stamp fraud can be a challenge. Not only are you facing potential criminal charges or a potentially long administrative process, but you’re in danger of losing the benefits that your family relies on or the benefits that you help other families use when they shop at your business.
Criminal charges for food stamp users
Most food stamp crimes that individual users face fall under New York’s welfare fraud laws. New York laws 158.00-158.50 prohibit fraudulent use of any type of public benefit card. The crimes range in seriousness by the amount of money involved. The offenses range from misdemeanors to serious felonies. Welfare fraud in the first degree is food stamp fraud involving more than one million dollars. Welfare fraud in the first degree is a class B felony.
Examples of food stamp crimes
If you apply for food stamps using false claims about your income and finances, that may amount to a violation of law. It’s also against the law to apply for food stamps using someone else’s identity. Taking and spending someone else’s food stamp card without authority is also a criminal act. In that case, you may face larceny charges as well as food stamp fraud charges.
You might face allegations that you traded your food stamps in exchange for something. Officials might allege that you accepted someone else’s food stamps as payment for something. The State of New York sees the food stamp program as a way to provide nutrition assistance to those who need it most. The amount that you receive depends on your needs. The state does not allow you to sell your food stamps or barter them for other things. If you engage in this type of behavior, you might face allegations of welfare fraud.
Business may also face food stamp fraud allegations
Businesses can also find themselves on the receiving end of food stamp fraud allegations. SNAP violations can result in a business losing their ability to accept food stamps. This may be devastating to the business’ livelihood as well as to those who depend on being able to shop at the business. An example of food stamp fraud is using food stamps at the local grocery store and buying Don Julio 1942.
A business shouldn’t allow customers to use their food stamp benefits for goods besides food. They also can’t accept food stamps for prepared, hot food. If they know that someone has transferred food stamps to someone else, they can’t accept them. They also can’t give people cash in exchange for the value of their food stamps.
What can businesses do?
If you’re a business facing an allegation of food stamp fraud, there are things that you can do to fight back and protect your interests. With business violations of food stamp fraud, you may have the chance to respond to an administrative inquiry about your food stamp use. If there’s an innocent explanation for what happened, that might be the end of the matter. You may take your case all the way civil court for a determination.
An attorney may be able to help. They can help you prepare a response to the agency. If you have an administrative hearing or a formal case in a court, your lawyers can help you prepare and present your case in the best possible light in accordance with the law. In some cases, you can negotiate a resolution. That may allow you to keep accepting food stamps with the blessing of public officials.
What can individuals do
A New York food stamp fraud attorney can help you defend yourself against allegations of food stamp fraud. If the state’s lawyers and the police just aren’t understanding what happened in your case, your food stamp fraud lawyer can help you give them the evidence that they need and explain it in a way that helps them see the truth. Sometimes, that’s enough to resolve the case.
In other cases, you may need to review the case for available defenses. Food stamp fraud can’t happen by accident. If the jury isn’t convinced that you knew you were cheating the system, they may not find you guilty. You should also review whether law enforcement violated your constitutional rights in order to investigate you. If they did, a preliminary motion to the court to explain the situation might result in suppression of evidence in your case.
Finally, you may be able to pursue a plea resolution. Even if the state has a strong case, they may not want to take the matter to trial. You may be able to arrange for a resolution that allows you to continue to accept the benefits that you need. Your food stamp fraud lawyers can help you address the charges against you and make a plan to help you reach a resolution that works for you.
Although food stamps are intended as financial assistance for those in need, some recipients obtain or use them fraudulently. There are many cases of food stamp fraud in New York, and even if you don’t feel like you have anything to worry about because you know you’re not guilty, it’s still important to take a charge of fraud seriously to ensure that you don’t get hit with some harsh penalties.
Whether you want to know more on The Food Stamp Program in New York or what constitutes food stamp fraud, we have you covered.
The Food Stamp Program
Even though many still use the phrase food stamps, the program is called snap, short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it transitioned away from actual stamps a long time ago. Instead, snap issues EBT debit cards to recipients of financial assistance. When you get an EBT card from snap, you also get a PIN. This ensures that you’re the only one who can make purchases using the EBT card, assuming you keep the PIN to yourself.
That EBT card only works at retailers that are approved with snap, and you’re only able to purchase certain types of items with it. The reason for this is to prevent recipients from using their financial assistance on items that aren’t necessities, such as cigarettes or alcohol. If you try to purchase these types of products using a snap EBT card, the transaction won’t go through.
This leads us to some of the more common types of food stamp fraud, which are perpetrated by both recipients of snap benefits and retailers in the SNAP program. There have been cases where retailers exchange money for some of the recipient’s EBT benefits.
Here’s an example – let’s say you have an EBT card. The retailer rings you up for food that costs $50, and you pay using your EBT card, which means in snap benefits just went to the retailer. Instead of giving you the food, the retailer gives you $35 or $40. They’re essentially buying your EBT benefits. You get the cash and they get the higher benefit amount. This is food stamp fraud, and both you and the retailer could be charged with it.
How Applying for snap Benefits Works
The application process for SNAP benefits varies depending on the state you’re in. In New York, the following options are available:
• Fill out and submit an application online.
• Go to your local snap office and fill out an application in-person.
• Pick up or print out an application and either mail or fax it in.
The simplest option is obviously doing the application online.
When you apply, you’ll need to enter quite a bit of information about yourself and your household to help snap verify if you’re eligible for benefits and, if you are, the amount of benefits that you should receive. This will be based on your current income, your assets, the size of your household and several other important factors.
This is another area where food stamp fraud often occurs. If you intentionally put any false information on the form to have a better chance of approval or to increase the amount of benefits you’re approved for, then you’ve committed food stamp fraud.
Changes in snap Benefit Amounts
When you’re receiving snap benefits, it’s your responsibility to let your local snap office know if there are any life changes for you that could affect your benefit amount. This could be a change in income if you get a new job or receive more hours at your current job. It could be a change in your household size if a family member moves out. Another potential change you need to let your snap office know about is if you go back to school, because students typically aren’t eligible for snap benefits.
If any changes occur and you don’t let your local snap office know, that’s considered food stamp fraud. Keep in mind also that there can be certain conditions you must fulfill, such as actively looking for work, to keep receiving snap benefits. Continuing to receive benefits while you aren’t fulfilling these conditions would also be a type of food stamp fraud.
Being found guilty of food stamp fraud could lead to fines, not being able to receive snap benefits ever again and even a prison sentence, depending on the amount of benefits you fraudulently obtained. To get the best result in your case, you should contact an experienced food stamp fraud lawyer as soon as possible. We have a firm full of New York food stamp fraud lawyers who know all the ins and outs of the law and will be able to prepare a strong defense for you.
When you’ve been charged with food stamp fraud, there are some serious potential consequences, including fines, disqualification from any future participation in the food stamp program and even a prison sentence. These make it all the more important that you get in touch with a qualified New York food stamp fraud lawyer to look at your situation and advise you on what to do going forward.
There are plenty of different types of food stamp fraud out there, and by better understanding them, you’ll know what to avoid in the future. You can also determine whether you potentially did anything that could be considered food stamp fraud. We’ll start with how the food stamp process works.
Applying for Food Stamps in New York
Although most people use the term “food stamps,” the program is actually called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s available nationwide, and it’s intended to help people and families who have low incomes with purchasing food.
There are multiple ways to apply for snap. You can get an application at a snap center and also submit it there, or print the application, and then turn it in to a SNAP center. There’s also the option of faxing or mailing your application. The most convenient option, if you have a computer and internet access, is applying online.
SNAP will go over your application to decide whether to approve you for financial assistance and, if so, for how much. Upon approval, SNAP will send you an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) debit card with your benefits on it. You’ll also get a personal identification number (PIN) to ensure that if someone else gets your EBT card, they can’t make any unauthorized purchases.
EBT cards work at retailers that participate in the SNAP program, and there are certain prohibited items, such as tobacco products and alcohol, that EBT cards cannot purchase.
Now, let’s look at how food stamp fraud works.
Consumer Food Stamp Fraud
The most common type of food stamp fraud is when you provide any false information on your SNAP application. The SNAP application requires information about you and your household to determine if you need financial assistance. If you don’t provide accurate information and get approved for assistance because of it, then that would be considered food stamp fraud. This could include reporting a lower income, failure to disclose assets or claiming that you’re the primary parent of a child when you’re not.
You’re also supposed to notify SNAP if your situation changes. For example, if you begin to make more money than you did when you first applied, or if someone leaves your household, you need to report those right away. That way, SNAP can adjust your assistance accordingly. If you don’t report a change, that’s another type of food stamp fraud.
Another popular way people commit food stamp fraud is by using their EBT card for anything other than authorized purchases. You’re not allowed to sell your EBT card to anyone, and you also can’t have a retailer ring up a purchase, but then give you some of the money the item would have cost instead of the item itself. Those situations are all examples of food stamp fraud.
Retailer Food Stamp Fraud
In the situation above where an EBT cardholder exchanges runs their card as if they’re making a purchase, only for the cashier to give them a portion of the money instead of the item, that would be food stamp fraud on both the consumer’s and the retailer’s part.
Penalties for Food Stamp Fraud
Whether it’s a consumer or a retailer committing food stamp fraud, the penalties can be severe. At a minimum, if you’re found guilty, you’ll likely need to pay back the amount you obtained fraudulently, and there could be fines on top of that. Even for food stamp fraud in the fifth degree, which is a misdemeanor, there’s still the potential for jailtime. It’s unlikely, though, unless you have prior offenses on your record.
Perhaps the most significant penalty is disqualification from SNAP. For a consumer who needs financial assistance, this is a serious problem, and it can also be a major financial blow for a retailer that gets taken out of the SNAP program.
No matter what type of food stamp fraud you’re dealing with, our team of New York food stamp fraud lawyers can give you legal advice and represent you during the case. It’s important to have the best defense possible, and we can look for ways to get the case dismissed, negotiate a favorable plea bargain or present a strong defense, should the case end up going to trial.
Food Stamp Eligibility Investigations in New York
There are various programs which distribute benefits known as “food stamps” or food assistance to help low income, disabled or elderly people purchase food. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the program that is used in New York City. The way SNAP benefits are given to people are through “Electronic Benefits Transfer” cards (“EBT”). The benefits are deposited into a card, and the person receiving the benefits withdraws the benefits with a personal pin number. The card can be used during checkout while purchasing food or through an ATM.
To determine whether you are eligible, there is a website where you can plug in your household information in a pre screener test. https://mybenefits.ny.gov. The purpose of this pre screener to get basic information on whether you should apply for the benefits.
The main factor that is used to determine whether you are eligible for food assistance benefits is your income. The chart below describes the monthly and annual maximum income amounts one is allowed to have if they want to apply for food stamps. However, in somes cases, even if one’s income is below these maximums, food stamp benefits will not be provided. A snap budget must be determined after an application is sent in.
Income Guidelines (no elderly or disabled member)
Monthly Gross Income*
Annual Gross Income*
Each additional person
$ 436 +
$ 5,232 +
Checking and savings accounts, retirement funds, college saving accounts, stocks, are no longer required in determining your eligibility. This means the main test for eligibility will be the above income levels.
For people who are elderly or disabled, the guidelines are slightly different.
Income Guidelines for Households with an Elderly or Disabled Member and Households with Dependent Care Expenses
Monthly Gross Income*
Annual Gross Income*
Each additional person
$ 670 +
$ 8,040 +
If you meet eligibility, you can apply online at myBenefits.ny.gov, in person, by mail or fax. By calling 1-800-342-3009, a representative can tell you the contact information of your local social services office. Once you fill out the paperwork, there will need to be an eligibility interview. If you fill out a paper application at the local office, the office can conduct your interview on the same day, or you will be called back to come in another day.
Once you complete the interview and are found eligible for benefits, there will be limits to the amount of benefits you may receive. For example, a household of one person will be allowed $200 a maximum per month. A family of four would receive a larger amount maximum of $668. This means you may receive up to this amount per month, but you could receive less than the maximum as well.
For each additional member
The EBT card may be used at retail stores and Farmer’s Markets. There are only some specific types of food one may use their snap benefits for. The benefits may be used to purchase breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, seeds used for growing food to eat, and other types of food items. There are certain items that are restricted and one is not allowed to purchase using food stamps. Some ineligible items include, beer, wine, cigarettes, tobacco, pet food, soap and paper products, supplies for the household, vitamins and medicines, foods that will be eaten at the store and hot foods.
If you already receive snap benefits, and do not also receive Cash Assistance, you may recertify for food benefits using a telephone interview instead of going into a local social services office. The telephone number is 1-800-342-3009.
If you are under investigation for food stamp fraud in New York, please call us at (888) 981-9127.
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