Although food stamps are intended as financial assistance for those in need, some recipients obtain or use them fraudulently. There are many cases of food stamp fraud in New York, and even if you don’t feel like you have anything to worry about because you know you’re not guilty, it’s still important to take a charge of fraud seriously to ensure that you don’t get hit with some harsh penalties.
Whether you want to know more on the food stamp program in New York or what constitutes food stamp fraud, we have you covered.
The Food Stamp Program
Even though many still use the phrase food stamps, the program is called SNAP, short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it transitioned away from actual stamps a long time ago. Instead, SNAP issues EBT debit cards to recipients of financial assistance. When you get an EBT card from SNAP, you also get a PIN. This ensures that you’re the only one who can make purchases using the EBT card, assuming you keep the PIN to yourself.
That EBT card only works at retailers that are approved with SNAP, and you’re only able to purchase certain types of items with it. The reason for this is to prevent recipients from using their financial assistance on items that aren’t necessities, such as cigarettes or alcohol. If you try to purchase these types of products using a SNAP EBT card, the transaction won’t go through.
This leads us to some of the more common types of food stamp fraud, which are perpetrated by both recipients of SNAP benefits and retailers in the SNAP program. There have been cases where retailers exchange money for some of the recipient’s EBT benefits.
Here’s an example – let’s say you have an EBT card. The retailer rings you up for food that costs $50, and you pay using your EBT card, which means $50 in SNAP benefits just went to the retailer. Instead of giving you the food, the retailer gives you $35 or $40. They’re essentially buying your EBT benefits. You get the cash and they get the higher benefit amount. This is food stamp fraud, and both you and the retailer could be charged with it.
How Applying for SNAP Benefits Works
The application process for SNAP benefits varies depending on the state you’re in. In New York, the following options are available:
• Fill out and submit an application online.
• Go to your local SNAP office and fill out an application in-person.
• Pick up or print out an application and either mail or fax it in.
The simplest option is obviously doing the application online.
When you apply, you’ll need to enter quite a bit of information about yourself and your household to help SNAP verify if you’re eligible for benefits and, if you are, the amount of benefits that you should receive. This will be based on your current income, your assets, the size of your household and several other important factors.
This is another area where food stamp fraud often occurs. If you intentionally put any false information on the form to have a better chance of approval or to increase the amount of benefits you’re approved for, then you’ve committed food stamp fraud.
Changes in SNAP Benefit Amounts
When you’re receiving SNAP benefits, it’s your responsibility to let your local SNAP office know if there are any life changes for you that could affect your benefit amount. This could be a change in income if you get a new job or receive more hours at your current job. It could be a change in your household size if a family member moves out. Another potential change you need to let your SNAP office know about is if you go back to school, because students typically aren’t eligible for SNAP benefits.
If any changes occur and you don’t let your local SNAP office know, that’s considered food stamp fraud. Keep in mind also that there can be certain conditions you must fulfill, such as actively looking for work, to keep receiving SNAP benefits. Continuing to receive benefits while you aren’t fulfilling these conditions would also be a type of food stamp fraud.
Being found guilty of food stamp fraud could lead to fines, not being able to receive SNAP benefits ever again and even a prison sentence, depending on the amount of benefits you fraudulently obtained. To get the best result in your case, you should contact an experienced food stamp fraud lawyer as soon as possible. We have a firm full of New York food stamp fraud lawyers who know all the ins and outs of the law and will be able to prepare a strong defense for you.
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