It is hard to live on food stamps. If you receive this form of government assistance, then you are no doubt going through a tough time. The events and conditions that led you to your current life have not all subsided. You may still find it difficult to feed your family and make ends meet even with the food stamps. This can tempt you into breaking the law or skirting enough of it to ensnare you into a larger investigation involving benefit fraud.
Being charged with food stamp, or SNAP, fraud is not a little deal. If you are charged, tried, and found guilty, the penalties can be severe (http://thelawdictionary.org/article/penalties-for-food-stamp-fraud/). It is therefore necessary to know the different actions that the law considers food stamp fraud.
You may be working but not making enough to provide enough for your family. The food stamp program is a subsidy to help low-income families buy groceries so that they do not starve to death. Various modifications have been made over time that places more of a burden on able-bodies persons to prove that they are trying to get the kind of work that will take them off the program. If you are like most people in your situation, meeting this aim is not that straightforward.
There is a great deal of competition for steady, good-paying jobs. The trend for lower wage jobs puts enormous pressures on people who are already in difficult and precarious circumstances. You may not be able to get the hours you need to pay your living expenses and feed your family. You may have turned to odd jobs that pay more and that are off the books.
The law requires you to report such income; but if you receive cash-only payments then it can be difficult to keep track of how much exactly you’re bringing in. The instinct to leave it unreported may also be spurred by the fact that the cash you receive is sporadic and unsteady, and that reporting it will lead to a reduction to your food stamp benefits. If you do this, you are breaking the law. Whether intentional or unintentional you will need representation if caught, arrested, and charged.
Food stamp trafficking is another kind of fraud. You should know that federal authorities are pursuing this particular line of fraud quite aggressively (https://www.fns.usda.gov/fraud/what-snap-fraud). Food stamp trafficking involves selling food stamps for hard cash or other items. An overdue utility bill or need to pay rent may tempt you to exchange food stamps for cash or other things of value—things that you may be able to sell for cash. You may think such activity legitimate, but it is not. Although you may have only the most noble intentions—to ensure that you and your family are not evicted—food stamp trafficking is illegal, and you will be prosecuted if found out.
Purchasing unauthorized items at the grocer is also a form of food stamp fraud. Such cases often involve a small neighborhood retailer. You may know the owner or have an arrangement with someone else who works there whereby you are able to buy alcohol and cigarettes using food stamps. This kind of activity may go undetected for a period of time. All that has to be done is for the unauthorized items to be rung up as something else. However, operations of this kind do not go on indefinitely. Someone is likely to find out and report you and the grocer to the authorities.
One of the most common forms of food stamp fraud is to over report the number of persons in your household. An increase in the number of individuals in your home qualifies you to receive more benefits; a decrease has the opposite effect. In many cases, food stamp recipients do not report the fact that someone has moved out to the authorities. This is against the law. Indeed, you are obligated to alert SNAP the moment the number of dwellers in your household changes.
Receiving government assistance does not make you a bad person—even if you have been charged with food stamp fraud. If such charges have been brought against you, your first priority must be to hire a lawyer. You will need representation and legal counsel. You should get someone who knows the law to look over your case and determine whether you’ve actually committed a crime.
The evidence the authorities have against you may be flimsy or non-existent. You may feel under pressure to incriminate yourself or confess to something you did not do. Getting a lawyer on your side will help you mount the kind of defense that will ease some of that pressure.
If you actually have committed a crime and the authorities have a strong case against you, then you still need a lawyer to help get you a deal. There is still your family to think about, and you must do all that you can to get an outcome that is favorable to you.
It is best to work with a lawyer with extensive expertise and experience in food stamp fraud cases. They will have deep knowledge of how the law works in such matters. They will also know how to negotiate with the prosecutors to obtain a result that will bring you the least hardship. Perhaps the best reason to work with such an attorney is the compassion and insight they bring. Food stamp fraud lawyers will not judge you; you will not be mistreated and humiliated because of the struggles you’ve been through and he burdens you’ve had to bear. You will be respected and treated with dignity.
Such lawyers know how to bring the circumstances of your life into the case, so that the judge who presides over it will see you as fully human. Food stamp lawyers will work hard to see that you are treated fairly by the criminal justice system and that you and your family are not forced to suffer any more than is necessary.
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