The economy of the United States constitutes of different types of people whose levels of income vary widely. Therefore, the government deemed it necessary to ensure that those whose income isn’t entirely sufficient should be supported through a program known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
The program was intended to support those who could not support themselves financially. However, just like any other good course, challenges that were unexpected arose, and it all began when different entities started to infuse fraud into the program so that they can benefit in a personal manner. The United States government came up with strict laws to regulate the fraud that had started to infect the whole system.
There exist different types food stamp fraud, and they all depend on the actions that are undertaken by the culprits in the circus of defrauding the system. However, Spodek Law Group P.C attorneys believe that there exist three primary forms of the fraud, which in most cases are penalized highly. They include Food Stamp Trafficking, Retail Food Stamp Trafficking, and Recipient Food Stamp Trafficking.
Food Stamp Trafficking
In this case, the undertakings of individuals are considered to be illegal once the SNAP merchandise is sold in exchange for liquid cash. In such a case, the program fails to serve its purpose as the donation that was meant for the low-level income earners.
Recipient Food Stamp Fraud
Fraud is considered to have occurred when the person who was originally intended to benefit from the food stamp fails to receive their rightful share. The fraud can happen in 2 major ways:
Tampering with the application process
The first case occurs when the application process is manipulated, such that an applicant fills information into the application forms that would otherwise be considered to be misleading by a court of law.
Secondly, Recipient Food Stamp Fraud occurs when the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program applicant fails to adequately specify information such as other sources of income, and the amount of revenue that one gets from other undertakings.
Such information helps in the allocation of quotas as the program is meant to help a huge number of people, and therefore, the proceeds should be rationed appropriately. Misleading the SNAP officers may make others miss out on actual allocations that are meant to be provided by the SNAP program.
Retailer Food Stamp Fraud
The Retailer Food Stamp Fraud happens to be the most rampant in different parts of the United States. It occurs when a retail store that has been enlisted in the SNAP program is disqualified, for the failure of keeping up with provided rules. However, due to the benefits that accrue to a store as a result of distributing SNAP program merchandise, the owner of the suspended store may end up falsifying information during the re-application process so that the retail store can be enlisted without completing the term of suspension.
The third form of the fraud is considered to be the worst as it tends to hurt the entire economy massively. While a few persons in the society ends up benefiting, the Retail Food Stamp Fraud makes the larger population to suffer. As a result, the punishment for engaging in the crime as a retailer is considered to be the most severe, as the government expects all enterprises to undertake their activities in a manner that is beneficial to the community.
Title 21 Section 802 of USA codes outlines that trafficking is the actual purchase and the eventual selling of any products that are enlisted in the SNAP program. In most cases, individuals sell the products to obtain cash or in exchange for other food products. In other situations, the SNAP program products are regularly exchanged for explosives, ammunitions, and drugs.
The United States Department of Agriculture, Food, and Nutrition Service is the institution that is tasked with the responsibility of investigating matters that are related to SNAP fraud. The department significantly invests into investigating retailers who undertake in fraudulent activities as they are considered to be vermins in the economy. Additionally, finding retailers is much easier, unlike individuals who tend to be widely spread.
Retailers who engage in fraudulent activities are fully disqualified from the program, and the decision can be made by a court of law without undertaking any further investigations provided facts are provided to the jury. In most cases, businesses that are eliminated from participating in the program always end up failing, since it becomes impossible to compete with other retailers who are enlisted under the SNAP program.
The various penalties that can be issued to a retailer who commits a SNAP fraud are listed under section 278.6 of the United States Trafficking Policies that control. Any store that goes against the 1997 Food Stamp Act is liable to be fined and denied a license for participating in the SNAP program.
The evidence is usually collected by the FNS through making occasional visits to any store that is suspected to be committing food stamp fraud. The FNS looks into all the reports that are related to transaction activities of the retailer, and this is typically obtained from the EBT systems. Additionally, the FNS rigorously reviews the redemption data from the convenience store.
A store that is found to be culpable is in most cases disqualified from undertaking business under the SNAP program for a period of between 7 months to 6 years. In case the retailer happens to be enlisted again, and then commits the crime for the second time, then the disqualification period will in most cases range from 13 months up to 11 years. However, according to the law, any store that is involved in the trafficking business should be entirely disqualified from the program.
A store can only be reinstated once the full disqualification term has been served as per section 278.1. Apart from complete disqualification, fines may be imposed on the defaulting store instead of exclusion, following the stipulations under section 271.2. Most retailers typically prefer to pay the fine rather than being wholly disqualified from the program as the latter would be more hurting.