The National Merchant Association, otherwise known as the NMA, has been urging retailers to participate in the EBT program. EBT cards, an essential part of the food stamp program, are one of the main ways government-issued benefits are transferred. Other types of benefits are also loaded onto an EBT card.
An EBT card functions like a debit card, requiring a PIN for transactions. EBT card technology is slightly varied depending on the state. One of the great benefits of EBT is the way it simplifies the accounting process. Since there are detailed records of the electronic transactions, there’s less chance of dealing with food stamp fraud.
There are a number of potential causes of food stamp fraud. One is for food stamp benefits to be fraudulently transferred from one person to another. Alternatively, a government agency may fraudulently transfer the benefits.
The recipients of food stamp benefits have the potential to participate in intentional program violations, otherwise known as IPV. This can result in a number of penalties like suspension, disqualification, fines, and even criminal prosecution.
If a recipient obtains or uses food stamps, they must not lie about their finances, omit facts about their circumstances, or willfully hide information. Recipients can’t use food stamps fraudulently. The fraudulent acquisition, transfer, or possession of food stamps is prohibited.
If the violations in question involved misusing cash benefits, it’s necessary to attend the IPV hearing. However, if the violation was an intentional violation of food stamp law, it’s not necessary to attend the hearing. Regardless of whether you’re the merchant or the food stamp recipient, you have legal rights to both an attorney and an interpreter.
In New York, this type of hearing starts with a packet of evidence. If any state employees make an appearance during the hearing, the evidence packet will list their names and titles. The penalties will never be reduced at a hearing, since New York law outlines specific penalties in its statutes. Instead, the evidence packet will include the following:
If you want to win your disqualification hearing, you must get a lawyer who’s familiar with the administration’s procedures. This lawyer will be able to examine the facts of the case and point out potential flaws.
The agency leveling the charges needs to present convincing, clear proof. Every rule about procedure, evidence, and service must be followed to the letter. An experienced lawyer will make sure all proper procedures are followed. If there’s any problem, your attorney will use this as grounds to fight the agency’s actions.
Another thing your lawyer can do is reduce your official income based on the application of expenses and lawful exclusions. If they can prove you have a low enough income for benefits, the agency won’t have a case. There are additional reasons you may need a lawyer in civil court. The agency may file a lawsuit against you or compel you to pay restitution.
There are a number of different factors that might have an impact on how food stamp fraud is determined. These tend to chiefly focus on discrepancies between household and individual finances or demographics.
Some potential reasons for a food stamp disqualification include greater than permitted daycare expenses or rent, unreimbursed medical expenses, and unreported child support. If a felon is incarcerated, they are not allowed to collect food stamps for family support.
If a family has a repeated or excessive need for food stamp benefits, this might also cause an investigation to be opened. People between the ages of 18 and 50 are expected to have a job.
For a first violation, the penalty is being disqualified for 12 months. A second violation results in disqualification for 2 years. Third violations will permanently exclude you from the program.
After the administrative hearing, there might be criminal prosecution depending on the circumstances. There are longer disqualifications if you sold your food stamps to another person, particularly if you were buying controlled substances or guns.
Food stamp violations are considered a class A misdemeanor in most cases. However, if the fraud is more than $1,000, it’s a class E felony. Over $3,000 is a class D felony, and over $50,000 is a class C felony.
The National Merchant Association (NMA) urges retailers to enroll in their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program to “accept those cards today!” The NMA calls EBT cards “the source for government-issued benefits.” NMA experts say social security benefits will be on the EBT cards of the future. “You should expand your customer base by enrolling in our EBT program” now says the NMA. Food stamps, Women Infants Children (WIC), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) are electronically loaded on the EBT card. A personal identification number (PIN) is required to complete its debit card transactions. The EBT card is run through an electronic payment system which transfers the card holder’s government benefits to a retailer. EBT technology varies from state to state. EBT simplifies accounting and reduces labor costs by electronically recording transactions. Detailed electronic transaction records reduce food stamp fraud. The NMA helps businesses thrive.
Expanded Customer Base
Your expanded customer base receives their funds from the United States Department of Agriculture, the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and the local New York Department of Social Services. Intentional Program Violations (IPV) carry penalties, which range from disqualification and suspension of funds to criminal prosecution and fines. Fraudulent transfer of food stamp benefits is an intentional program violation and a violation of 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 359.3(b)(1)-(2).
Recipients are equally responsible for intentional program violations. Recipients may not in the process of obtaining or using food stamps:
Attendance at the IPV hearing is necessary if the intentional violations were a misuse of cash assistance. Attendance at an IPV hearing is not necessary if the recipient intentionally violated food stamp laws. Recipient or merchant, you have a right to an interpreter and an attorney.
An administrative disqualification hearing under 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 359.5(e)begins with an evidence packet. State employees who will appear at the hearing are listed with their titles on the evidence packet. Penalties are never reduced. Penalties are strictly specified by statute. Your evidence packet lists:
Only a lawyer familiar with administrative procedures is capable of winning a food stamp administrative disqualification hearing. The agency must present clear and convincing proof, and all rules of service, evidence, and procedure must be followed. You need an experienced lawyer capable of representing you in both agency and criminal court proceedings. Your lawyer will strive to reduce your income through exclusions and application of expenses involved in producing your income. You may need further representation in civil court. You can be sued or compelled to make restitution.
A discrepancy between individual and household demographics or incomes may contribute to a determination of food stamp fraud. Unreported child support, unreimbursed medical expenses, and greater than legally permitted rent or daycare expenses contribute to determinations of food stamp fraud. Incarcerated felons may not continue collecting food stamps to help support their family. Excessive or repeated need for food stamps may also trigger an investigation. If you are between 18 and 50 years old, you are expected to work.
Penalties for first, second, and third violations are disqualification for 12 months, 24 months, and permanently, respectively. Criminal prosecution may follow the administrative hearing. Longer disqualifications apply to trafficking especially if food stamps were used to purchase guns or controlled substances.
Willful violations of food stamp laws are a class A misdemeanor unless the value of the fraud exceeds $1,000. Food stamp fraud over $1,000 is a class E felony. Fraud over $3,000 and $50,000 are class D and C felonies, respectively.
Social services refers violators to the district attorney’s office for prosecution. New York City sends all fraud cases greater than $3,000 for prosecution. Criminal court judges have the authority to reduce disqualification periods by statute 7 C.F.R. § 273.16(g)(2)(i). Upon referral for prosecution, the New York Department of Social Services no longer has any involvement in the case.
Individuals may be able to defer adjudication of their criminal fraud cases by signing a disqualification agreement under law 7 C.F.R. § 273.16(h); 18 N.Y.C.R.R. §359.1(e). It is not advisable to take a disqualification determination into criminal or civil court. Criminal sentences as prosecuted by the district attorney are severe compared to agency determinations with repayment options and disqualification periods.
If you are an employer whose employees committed food stamp fraud without your knowledge, you case is more complex. The charges against you are serious, and you only may be able to repay all the money you diverted illegally.
A possible defense against IPVs is a family member who has a form of mental illness. Another viable defense is that the violations occurred while caring for a delicate minor or disabled child.
Income reduction is a possible defense for fraud. It may be possible to get a sentence or penalty reduced in the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office can decline to prosecute despite a referral from the administrative hearing.
Administrative Law Attorney
If you’re a food stamp recipient who received a notice of an administrative disqualification hearing, you need the services of our food stamp administrative law attorney. If you’re a merchant who’s losing money because your food stamp payments have been suspended and you are disqualified from accepting food stamps, you need an experienced administrative law attorney.
Call our food stamp administrative law attorney for a free initial consultation. We strive for the best possible solution to our clients’ food stamp fraud problems. We represent clients in administrative hearings, and in criminal and civil state and federal courts. We’re available 24 hours per day, everyday.
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