New York’s food stamp program is called the New York State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program issues benefit cards to residents of New York who need help with food security. The amount you get depends on your household income and the number of people in your home. You can spend the benefits at locations throughout New York State that are approved to accept them.
The state has rules for how to use food stamps. Even though food stamps are a lot like cash, you can’t use them to purchase alcohol or cigarettes. You must use them to buy non-prepared food. That means you can’t use them to buy hot, prepared food to eat in the store. You also can’t spend them on non-food items like clothes, tools and other household goods.
When investigators believe that individuals or businesses misuse the food stamp system, those involved might find themselves facing criminal charges or civil actions. Using criminal charges, officials might seek to put someone in jail for abusing the food stamp fraud system. New York’s food stamp fraud laws fall under the general auspices of welfare fraud. Charges of welfare fraud can range from misdemeanors for isolated offenses to serious felonies when large amounts of money are involved.
NYC food stamp fraud lawyers can help their clients defend against allegations of food stamp fraud. Defending an allegation of food stamp fraud involves tracking down witnesses and gathering evidence of the truth. Perhaps you accidentally had false information when you applied for benefits. Maybe someone gave you their card to use on their behalf. These are just a few of the possible defenses to food stamp fraud charges in New York.
In New York, food stamp fraud can’t happen by accident. The law requires you to act purposefully when you commit food stamp fraud. Specifically, the law says that you must act “knowingly and with intent to defraud.” New York law 158.00 says that this is the minimum standard in order to be guilty of food stamp fraud. If you act accidentally, you’re not guilty under the law. That means if you have an innocent explanation for what happened, you’re not guilty of the charges.
Your food stamp fraud lawyers can help you prepare your defense and present it to the state’s attorney or to the jury. You may be able to show the state’s attorney that it’s just a misunderstanding. They might want documentation of what information you used to apply for benefits. They might accept confirmation that you made a mistake when asking for assistance.
If they don’t accept your explanation, you may want to take your case to trial. The jury can listen to your story and have the final say. Your attorneys can work with you to track down necessary witnesses and make sure that they come to court. They can help you understand the legal process and what to expect on court day.
Food stamp fraud cases often involve a lot of paperwork at trial. The case might center around your application for benefits, how you use your benefits, who lives in your household or any other fact that the case hinges on. Paperwork can be a bit tricky because there are specific rules of evidence in play in New York City court cases when it comes to how to admit paperwork. You may need to bring a person from the state who controls the paperwork or someone from your bank or your employer. Your lawyers can help you make sure that you prepare your case in a way that the important evidence is admissible in court.
Your case will likely begin with an arraignment. That’s a hearing where you formally learn the charges against you. You may have to post a bond, and you may also have conditions to comply with while you’re on bond such as notifying the court if you change your address.
While you wait for the trial date, your attorney can advocate on your behalf. They’ll spend time exploring your defenses and building your evidence. In the meantime, they might also approach the state’s attorney to see if they are willing to extend any plea offers.
Whether you accept a plea offer or take your case to trial is your decision. However, your lawyers can offer guidance by helping you understand how the law applies to your case. They can give you the confidence to help you know that you’re making the right decisions.
Your food stamp lawyers are your advocates for you and your family. An allegation of food stamp fraud can turn your life upside down and put your family’s security in jeopardy. Having experienced lawyers on your side can help you do everything that you can to get back to life as normal.
If you’re dealing with an accusation of food stamp fraud, you shouldn’t take it lightly. Depending on whether you have any priors on your record and the amount of benefits you’re accused of obtaining fraudulently, there could be jailtime involved in your sentence. Even if you avoid that, you could still end up paying restitution for the benefits you obtained and fines, and you won’t be able to ever apply for food stamps again.
It’s important to know what you’re dealing with when you’re charged with food stamp fraud. This post will get you up to speed and help you figure out your next move.
How food stamp fraud Works
Before we get into food stamp fraud examples, it’s important to note that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the organization that issues food stamps in all 50 states, and it doesn’t issue real stamps anymore, it issues an EBT debit card and loads funds onto each recipient’s card.
The charge of food stamp fraud can apply to the recipients of SNAP benefits and retailers who take part in SNAP and accept the program’s EBT cards.
These two categories cover a variety of different situations. Here’s a more in-depth look at both categories.
Providing false information is a common way for people to receive approval for snap benefits when they don’t meet the guidelines, or to get more benefits than they would qualify for otherwise. When you apply for snap benefits, you need to provide quite a bit of information about yourself, your occupation, your income and the number of people in your household. Lying about any of this is food stamp fraud.
It’s important to note that providing false information isn’t the only way that false information could lead to food stamp fraud. Failure to update information with your local snap office is also food stamp fraud. For example, if you had three children living with you when you filled out the application, but one of them later moves out, you’d need to notify snap about it so that your benefit amounts can be updated for your new household size.
Now, we’ll look at how an EBT card could be used in ways snap doesn’t authorize. Even though it’s a debit card, it’s still only intended for purchasing food, and it’s fraud if you try to use the card to purchase any prohibited items. You also can’t sell the card or your benefits for cash. An example of this would be if you and a retailer made a deal that you would purchase $100 worth of products using your EBT card, and instead of the products, they would give you $80 cash instead. You and the retailer would both be guilty of food stamp fraud.
Degrees of Food Stamp Fraud
In New York, food stamp fraud falls under the category of welfare fraud, which has five degrees. The degrees are as follows:
• First-degree welfare fraud is when you fraudulently get over $1 million. This would be unlikely on a consumer’s part, but it can happen with retailers who run food stamp fraud rings that involve many customers.
• Second-degree welfare fraud is when you fraudulently get over $50,000 up to $1 million.
• Third-degree welfare fraud is when you fraudulently get over $3,000 up to $50,000.
• Fourth-degree welfare fraud is when you fraudulently get over $1,000 up to $3,000.
• Fifth-degree welfare fraud is when you fraudulently get up to $1,000.
Each of these degrees of fraud have different minimum and maximum punishments. Fifth-degree welfare fraud is the only misdemeanor, and it’s a class A misdemeanor, which means it will typically have the lightest punishment. The rest are felonies – class D felonies for fourth and third-degree welfare fraud, a class C felony for second-degree welfare fraud and a class B felony for first-degree welfare fraud.
Defending Yourself When Charged with Food Stamp Fraud
Food stamp fraud cases can be complex, and that’s why it’s vital that you have a good lawyer. Our New York City food stamp fraud law firm has plenty of skilled lawyers who can represent you. We’ll start by evaluating the prosecution’s case. For this reason, it’s a good idea to bring us any paperwork you have about what you’re being charged with, along with evidence you can use to defend yourself, as soon as possible.
We can then figure out the best defense strategy, negotiate plea bargains on your behalf and represent you in a trial.
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