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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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