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Federal Food Stamp Crimes

If you’ve been following the news these days then you’re aware that the new administration in Washington, D.C. has promised to prosecute and eliminate fraud in federal programs. One of these “entitlement” programs currently being scrutinized is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the “food stamp” program.
Is snap In Trouble?
The program now known as snap has existed in one form or another since the late 1930s. Its purpose is to provide financial assistance to individuals and families unable to purchase food. This program has not been without controversies over its lifespan. Among the allegations surrounding it is that it is easy to defraud. While SNAP remains a fairly healthy program and the number of true fraud cases are in decline, it’s not difficult to fall afoul of SNAP regulations. If you need help with federal appeals, our federal appeals lawyers can assist with this as well.
SNAP is intended to provide a limited amount of goods to eligible households. Under the restrictions of this program, both program applicants and vendors who participate in it must adhere to certain requirements. If violations are proven in both cases, penalties include:

  • permanent disqualification from the SNAP program
  • jail terms
  • fines

A SNAP recipient is considered guilty of fraud if he or she:

  • lies on application forms
  • exchanges SNAP benefits for cash
  • makes purchases with SNAP that they aren’t entitled to
  • collects more SNAP benefits then they are entitled to

A vendor participating in the SNAP program is guilty of participating in SNAP fraud if he or she:

  • exchanges cash for SNAP benefits
  • accepts SNAP benefits for forbidden goods
  • allows SNAP holders to purchase more goods than they are entitled to
  • lies on or deliberately misfiles paperwork

SNAP Fraud
A study conducted in 2013 by the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) showed that true SNAP fraud was relatively rare, occurring with only four percent of program participants. That figure has continued to decline with stricter enforcement. The GAO’s study also showed that many of those charged with fraud weren’t hardened criminals, but individuals trying to “bend” SNAP’s stricter requirements. This “bending” included making purchases not allowed by SNAP (like alcohol or gasoline) or exchanging SNAP benefits for their cash equivalent.
Can You Be Caught In A SNAP Snare?
It’s difficult to feel sorry for individuals who find ways to defraud programs for the disadvantaged on purpose. But SNAP is a complex program with many restrictions. Some of these have changed or been amended over time, as well. Is it possible to accidentally commit fraudulent errors while participating in this program? There are several ways in which this can happen.
1. The recipient accidentally receives more benefit than they are entitled to.
The federal SNAP program is administered on a state level. But farming claims out doesn’t mean that accidents don’t happen. Adjustments are occasionally made to SNAP applications that result in larger benefits than originally anticipated. But these adjustments are (or should be) accompanied by documentation explaining any benefit adjustments.
If a recipient is aware that an error of this nature has been made and uses the benefits anyway, they are generally not penalized. However, the erring agency retains the right to collect what it calls “overages” from future payments until the overage is gone.
2. The recipient makes an “honest mistake” while applying for SNAP that results in more benefits then they are entitled to.
These are tedious, complicated forms to fill out. Accidents happen. Recipients may be expected to fill out amended forms when this occurs. If benefits have been issued and used before this error is caught, recipients should expect “overages” to be deducted.
3. While appealing a rejected SNAP application, the applicant begins receiving SNAP benefits.
If the recipient loses the appeal, he or she may be considered financially liable for any used SNAP benefits. It’s also possible that he or she may be charged “overage” for any benefits issued before a SNAP appeal is officially won.
Administering state agencies have some leeway with “unintentional” violations like these. Under certain conditions such as:

George FernandezGeorge Fernandez
14:16 30 Apr 24
Excellent 10 out of 10, Helped resolve my case. Jeremy explained everything and made everything easy to understand.
RajRaj
21:33 24 Apr 24
If you are looking for a lawyer that listens, is aggressive where needed, and holds his word above all else, Todd is the best pick. I had hired multiple attorneys prior to hiring the Spodek Group for a white collar case. The first thing that stood out to me was the cost, as anyone going through the process and dealing with the system, money was tight at that time - especially after hiring and firing multiple lawyers. The cost was not as high as others which was definitely a plus. Todd's intake process was also unlike other attorneys. He took the time to actually listen. He cared. He was trying to put himself in my shoes while I was explaining the situation to him and he really took the time to understand the whole situation. Other lawyers will give you 15 mins and send you a retainer agreement. Not Todd, I think he spent almost two hours with me as I was explaining everything.Not only was he great during the onboarding process, he was supportive and very informative through the entire plea process and eventually sentencing. After hiring him, I asked if I should hire a prison consultant, he told me to save my money as he would do everything they would. He was right and held up to his word. Later on I would hear from others that went with the prison consultants that they were a waste of money - I am glad I listened to Todd!When it came time for sentencing, two days prior to sentencing, the prosecutor tried increasing my proposed prison time by almost double - apparently a normal move. Todd and his team worked with me non-stop through the weekend prior to sentencing to ensure that I was not given additional prison time. Again, he took the time to listen and came up with a strategy to explain the case with great detail.Unfortunately, I did plead guilty as that was my best option. Todd and his whole team wrote up nearly 300 pages of a summary of what happened and why I should not be given prison time. If I breakdown the amount I spent with Todd versus the amount of work that I saw being done, I am shocked I was not charged four times as much. The other benefit was, a lot of criminal defense lawyers were just a single attorney with a paralegal or two. Todd had a team of people that I dealt with (5-7 people that I interacted with), but he was ALWAYS accessible. It would never take him more than an hour to reply unless he was in court.I was sentenced to prison and I was emotionally distraught. Todd and his team did whatever they could even after sentencing to make sure I was alright. He personally stayed in touch with my family to ensure I was doing alright and offered support to them. Most lawyers would consider the job complete at sentencing, not Todd.After prison, Todd still spent time with me to make sure I was on the right track and avoiding any potential risks in the future. He has also been giving advice on how to navigate probation etc and has not been looking at the clock for billing.Although I wish I had never been arrested in the first place, I am glad I had Todd and his team in my corner. Without them I likely would have had to spend a lot more time in prison than I did.Thank you, Todd, and the entire Spodek Law team, for helping turn what was a nightmare into a manageable situation!
Yelva Saint-PreuxYelva Saint-Preux
19:26 19 Apr 24
I am immensely grateful to the entire team at Spodek Law Group for their unwavering dedication and exceptional expertise throughout my case. From our initial consultation to the final resolution, their professionalism and tireless advocacy made all the difference. Their strategic approach and attention to detail instilled confidence in me every step of the way.Thanks to their hard work and commitment, we achieved a truly favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. Not only did they navigate the complexities of my case with precision, but they also provided invaluable support and guidance during what was undoubtedly a challenging time. I cannot recommend Spodek Law Group highly enough, especially attorneys Todd Spodek and Claire Banks; they are beacons of excellence in the legal profession.YSP.
Katherine SunKatherine Sun
18:08 18 Apr 24
my lawyer is Alex Zhik. Efficient, patient and professional
Nun yaNun ya
17:48 18 Apr 24
Todd, Ralph and Alex are amazing. Helped my husband get from a double digit number with multiple charges to a single digit, by the time I blink he will be out. They very professional and help with all your needs. They dealt with my anxiety and worry very well and they understand that your family member needs to get home as soon as possible.
Keisha ParrisKeisha Parris
20:45 15 Mar 24
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko BeautyTaïko Beauty
16:26 15 Mar 24
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence.Thank you team!
K MarK Mar
01:37 25 Jan 24
I recently had Spodek Law Group represent me for a legal matter in NYC and I am thoroughly impressed with their services.Alex Zhik secured the best possible outcome for my case.It was a seamless journey from the initial consultation to the resolution of my legal matter. From the moment I spoke to Todd about my case, his enthusiasm to help was evident, setting a positive tone for the entire experience. The efficiency and professionalism displayed by the team is commendable.A particularly noteworthy aspect of their service is their user-friendly portal to upload your documents/evidence. This not only simplified the process, but showcases their commitment to streamline the client experience.Lastly, in an industry where legal fees can often be a concern, I found their pricing to be very reasonable, making needing legal assistance feel accessible and stress-free.I am grateful for their support and wouldn't hesitate to turn to them again in the future.
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  • collecting “overages” would cost the recipient extreme economic distress
  • collecting an “overage” is more expensive than it’s worth
  • more than 12 months passed before the agency caught its error

recipients often aren’t charged for outstanding amounts. However, if the administering agency determines that an applicant or recipient has intentionally violated the requirements of the SNAP program, the consequences are far more severe. Intentional SNAP violations are usually determined to have occurred when:

  • an applicant deliberately lies on an application
  • an applicant deliberately withholds information on an application
  • an applicant has committed previous acts that they know would make them ineligible for SNAP

Because the consequences of a charged intentional SNAP violation are potentially far more serious than an unintentional one, legal consul is recommended in such cases.
Avoiding Trouble
The best way for both potential recipients and vendors to avoid problems with SNAP is to fully understand the program and how it works before committing to it. Neither party should agree to exchange benefits for money, or to sell or purchase items not permitted by the program. Both recipients and vendors should complete and report any paperwork issues promptly. Any changes that would affect program participation should be reported promptly as well. And both recipients and vendors should report any abuses of the SNAP program that they become aware of, and cooperate with authorities fully. And when SNAP legal trouble can’t be avoided, lawyers experienced in dealing with this program can be invaluable. Such attorneys can:

  • help get fines reduced
  • help to avoid or lessen jail time
  • help to have canceled benefits restored
  • advise clients in order to avoid future problems

SNAP has helped millions of people to survive hard times, and it’s a program well worth preserving. Making sure that its participants adhere to its rules is one sure way to help to preserve it for years to come.

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