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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Criminal Use Of A Public Benefit Card

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 08:01 pm


Criminal Use of Public Benefit Cards

Public benefit cards, like food stamps or Medicaid, help folks who are down on they’re luck get back on they’re feet. But sometimes, bad apples abuse the system. In this article, we’ll look at how criminals misuse these cards, and what the law says about it.

Selling Food Stamps

Folks who get food stamps sometimes sell they’re benefits for cash. This is illegal under federal law. The Food Stamp Act says you can’t exchange benefits for anything of value. If you get caught trafficking food stamps, you could face fines up to $250,000, or jail time up to 20 years.

Why do people do this? Well, they need money for bills or habits, and don’t want the food. Or, stores give them 50 cents on the dollar to get food stamps and buy inventory. The black market for food stamps is real.

But have empathy – put yourself in they’re shoes. If you were struggling to keep the lights on, you might sell some food stamps to make ends meet. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Selling Medicaid Cards

Medicaid pays for medical care for folks with low incomes. Some people sell they’re Medicaid cards to get cash for drugs, instead of using it for health care.

This is healthcare fraud under federal law. Penalties include fines up to $250,000, and up to 10 years in prison. But again, have compassion – addiction is a disease. These people need treatment, not jail.

Using Multiple EBT Cards

Electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards are like debit cards for food stamps and cash benefits. Sometimes, people get EBT cards in multiple names to get extra benefits. This is illegal – you can only use your own EBT card.

But folks have excuses. Maybe they claim benefits for relatives too. Or they’re so poor, they feel like they have no choice. Poverty can push people to extremes.

Stealing Cards to Buy Groceries

Other folks steal EBT cards to buy food. They feel entitled to it, even though it ain’t theirs. This is considered theft, and can carry fines and jail time if convicted.

But put yourself in they’re shoes. If you were hungry, with no money for food, you might steal a card too. It’s a crime of poverty, not greed.

What the Law Says

While some criminals have sob stories, benefits fraud is illegal. Prosecutors take it seriously, cause it robs taxpayers.

Defenses like poverty, addiction, or ignorance rarely work. The law requires proving you knew your actions were illegal. So even if you were in dire straits, a judge may rule against you.

The best defense is showing you weren’t involved at all. An alibi or proof of mistaken identity can undermine the prosecution’s case. But for most folks caught red-handed, the odds are stacked against them.

The Verdict

Public benefit cards help our most vulnerable citizens, but some abuse the system. Selling food stamps for cash, misusing Medicaid, or stealing cards all carry stiff penalties. But before judging, consider what desperation may drive someone to crime. With compassion and care, we can reduce fraud and help folks get back on they’re feet.


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