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By Spodek Law Group | January 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: March 12, 2023)

Last Updated on: 12th March 2023, 06:08 pm

Navigating a SNAP disqualification or penalty can be a daunting experience for any retailer. As a SNAP retailer, receiving a Charge Letter from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an unsettling experience. This document, with its formal language and accusations, leaves you wondering how this could have happened to your business and what steps you can take to rectify the situation. But, with the help of an experienced attorney, you can take proactive steps towards regaining your ability to participate in the SNAP program or contesting a penalty imposed by the USDA.

As a SNAP retailer, it is important to note that the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has the authority to permanently disqualify a retailer found to be engaging in “trafficking” of SNAP benefits. Trafficking refers to “the buying, selling, stealing, or otherwise effecting an exchange of SNAP benefits…for cash or consideration other than eligible food…” This can happen to any retailer, regardless of size or reputation, and it is crucial to take immediate action to mitigate the consequences.

When the USDA is planning to issue a SNAP disqualification or impose a penalty, they must first send a Charge Letter outlining the specific charges against your business. This is your opportunity to review the accusations and begin preparing your defense. It is important to understand that in determining the disqualification or penalty, FNS will consider the alleged nature and scope of the violations, any prior warnings issued to your business, and any other evidence of intent to violate regulations.

It is a difficult and overwhelming situation, but by understanding the process and taking proactive steps, you can work towards regaining your ability to participate in the SNAP program or contesting a penalty imposed by the USDA. With Attorney Todd Spodek and the Spodek Law Group by your side, you can mount a powerful defense and fight to protect your livelihood.

As a retailer, it is crucial to remember that time is of the essence when responding to a SNAP Charge Letter. You have just 10 days to respond, and the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to prevent disqualification. But, with the right attorney by your side, you can fight back and defend your business.

Your attorney will guide you through the preparation and presentation of key evidence, such as receipts for individual transactions and inventory invoices from the review period. They may also advise you to take photographs of your store and gather statements from witnesses. The key is to be thorough and proactive in your response, so you can rebut the allegations and avoid disqualification or minimize the penalty.

It’s important to remember that trying to make peace with the USDA on your own is not a good strategy. As a SNAP retailer facing a Charge Letter, the odds are stacked against you. The USDA is looking for any excuse to disqualify you and impose penalties. With Attorney Todd Spodek’s deep understanding of the law and experience in handling SNAP disqualifications and penalties, you can fight back and defend your business.

The stakes are too high and the risks are too great to go it alone. Seek help now and give yourself the best chance of success. Don’t let a Charge Letter disrupt your business – contact the Spodek Law Group today.

The United States Department of Agriculture is taking a hardline stance against retailers who engage in illegal exchanges of cash for food stamp benefits, a practice known as food stamp trafficking. The USDA’s recent report examined the trafficking rate within SNAP authorized retailers, highlighting that smaller stores, such as gas stations, convenience stores, and specialty grocery stores, are at higher risk for violating federal SNAP regulations.

This report makes it clear that the USDA is actively investigating small retailers for any violation of federal SNAP regulations and seeking to permanently disqualify any retailer who commits even a single trafficking offense. As a result, it is crucial for small and medium-sized retail businesses that are authorized to accept food stamps or are interested in submitting an application to become authorized to accept SNAP EBT benefits to be aware of common missteps that can lead to civil sanctions or even criminal charges.

The federal laws governing which items may be sold by retail stores to customers using food stamps are found in Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations state that only authorized retailers may accept EBT payments for “eligible food.” The term “eligible food” is defined as any food or food product intended for human consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and hot foods and hot food products prepared for immediate consumption.

However, trafficking can still occur in small retailers. Imagine you are the owner of a small grocery or convenience store that has recently been authorized to accept SNAP EBT as a form of payment for food items in your store. Like many small business owners, you have transferred the day-to-day operations of the store to a store manager, who has hired a few individuals to serve as cashiers at the store’s only cash register on a rotating basis.

Like many SNAP authorized retailers, your store’s customer base is comprised of many low-income individuals who qualify for food stamps. This motivated you to apply to accept food stamps in the first place. Now, imagine that the store’s young cashier, who was probably hired out of the same neighborhood as many of the store’s customers, is approached by “a few guys from the neighborhood” who are offering a common-sense trade: they want to swipe their EBT cards in a sham transaction that gives the store $150 in SNAP payments from the government, and in exchange, all they are asking for is that the store give them $75 from the cash register.

The young store employee, who probably realizes that this transaction isn’t the best idea but who hasn’t been trained specifically on the EBT regulations and has never even heard the word “trafficking,” succumbs to peer pressure and makes the sale. After this sale, word spreads through the neighborhood that this particular store is a place where you can trade your food stamps for cash, leading to more transactions of this type.

As a SNAP retailer, it is crucial to be aware of the consequences of even one trafficking offense and to ensure that all employees are trained on EBT regulations. The risks are too great to ignore, and the Spodek Law Group is here to help. If you own a small or medium-sized retail business that is authorized to accept food stamps or are interested in submitting an application to become authorized to accept SNAP EBT benefits, contact Attorney Todd Spodek and the Spodek Law Group for experienced and professional legal advice.

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I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

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