The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a nutrition program put in place to assist families and individuals in need. It is commonly known as the food stamps program. Approximately 46.5 million Americans receive SNAP benefits and most of the recipients are women and children, the elderly and disabled and those who are unable to work.
The food stamp program in the United States was first implemented in 1939, to help the US out of the Great Depression. The prosperity of the country, after World War II, ended the food stamp program.
The program re-emerged during John F. Kennedy’s campaign for president in 1960, after he and wife Jackie had toured the country and saw firsthand the many pockets of devastating poverty and hunger. In 1961, after his election, President Kennedy reinstated the food stamp program of the Great Depression. Under President Lyndon B. Johnson the 1964 Food Stamp Act was passed and is basically the program we know today.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), reports that approximately $70 billion is put into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) each year.
An average New York household may receive around $281 in food benefits per month, while an individual may receive between $133 an $16 a month. No non-edible products can be bought on the food benefits program. This has led some poorer families to find ways of trading food benefits for cash to purchase items such as toiletries, diapers, clothes, or cash for utilities and gas for their cars.
The OIG reported to Congress that in an investigation between 2013 and 2015, 3,394 retailers were found to have used the social security numbers of deceased persons. Retailers were also found to have fraudulently listed 193 people as owners of these retail establishments who were not at least 18-years-old. These retailers redeemed $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits.
Individual food stamp fraud differs slightly than businesses who commit fraud, but it can be no less severe in nature. People claim dependants who do not exist, using false or stolen social security numbers in order to get more food stamp benefits, people can no longer sell paper food stamp since the advent of the Electronic Benefits Transfer card (EBT) but they can sell the card along with its pin number for ongoing cash and other non-food items from the purchaser of their card. People who own cars, property and have steady well-paying jobs also fraudulently receive food stamp benefits.
Many people are under the assumption that they can not go to jail if found guilty of food stamp fraud. This is not necessarily the case and is a possibility. There are food stamp fraud cases every day that are prosecuted and result in jail sentences along with monetary penalties.
Each case is unique and the outcome depends on various factors. If you have been accused of food stamp fraud you need to contact a food stamp fraud defense attorney as soon as possible.
SNAP fraud can come from individuals, business owners, even SNAP workers themselves have and can fraud the program. In January 2015, an employee of the Wisconsin SNAP program defrauded the government of more than $150,000 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The most common ways individuals fraud the SNAP program include using fraudulent social security card numbers, having employment with a wage that puts you over the income threshold to receive benefits, selling your EBT card and PIN number for cash or having more than one SNAP EBT card.
In 2016, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that SNAP helped approximately 20 million children — one in four U.S. children. Although fraud does exist it has decreased dramatically since the end of paper food stamp booklets and the use of EBT cards. Committing food stamp fraud hurts those most in need of the program benefits by raising costs and enforcing stricter rules which almost seem to encourage small incidences of fraud out of desperation for some families.
Depending on the type of fraud you have committed, the penalties range from fines to prison. Only a food stamp fraud attorney can determine from looking at all the details and elements of your case, which type of penalty you might be facing. however, the following penalties can be applied to your case depending on the nature of fraud you have committed with the food stamp program:
Class A Misdemeanor:
Carries a sentence of up to 1 year in jail.
Class B Felony:
Carries a minimum prison sentence of 1-3 years and a maximum of 8 1/3-25 years.
If a person has a prior felony conviction within 10 years of the new felony, the minimum sentence for incarceration is 4 1/2-9 years and a maximum of 12 1/2-25 years, however, regardless of any past or present felony conviction, a person will be placed on parole for a period of between 1 and 3 years after release from incarceration.
Class C Felony:
Carries no mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of 5-15 years in prison
If a person has a prior felony conviction within 10 years of the new felony, the minimum period of incarceration is 3-6 years and a maximum of 7 1/2-15 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after release.
Class D Felony:
Carries no mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of 2 1/3-7 years in prison.
If a person has a prior felony conviction within 10 years of the new felony, the minimum period of incarceration is 2-4 years and the maximum 3 1/2-7 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after release.
Regardless of whether jail time will apply to your case, the State will require you to pay back any amount you have defrauded from them, and they can and may garnish any future employment earnings and possibly more, to ensure your debt is repaid.
If you are facing charges of food stamp fraud, contacting an attorney who is knowledgeable in the defense of this nature of crime is the wisest step you can take and can mean the difference between moderate to stiff penalties including jail time.
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