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SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter

SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter: Understanding and Responding

Being a retailer in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) means that you can service low income customers. You might be surprised how this can sustain your business.

Selling to SNAP recipients comes with important legal duties designed to keep fraud out of the government benefits program. These obligations are not just for you. They extend to your managers and all of your staff members. If anyone in your business gets caught committing acts of fraud, the government may mail you a “Trafficking Charge Letter.” Responding to it promptly and properly is paramount.

Why Did I Receive a Trafficking Charge Letter?

Trafficking can happen in the form of purchasing EBT benefits from your customers. The recipients accept cash from you and, in some cases, they may then buy products that they are not allowed to buy with their EBT card. Trafficking in SNAP benefits also includes using a recipient’s EBT card to purchase inventory and then reselling those items to other stores or customers. In some trafficking exchanges, a SNAP beneficiary may offer to sell you their benefits in exchange for firearms, bullets or illicit drugs. Grocers can permanently lose their ability to receive EBT benefits for participating in trafficking.

The Charge Letter shows up when agents of the Food Nutrition Service (FNS) or the state agency find that you have violated SNAP rules. The FNS often employs undercover purchasers from whom they get information on which to base their charges. Undercover customers will approach you or your staff members, pretending to be EBT customers to see if you or your employees break rules. They could either offer to sell their benefits to you or see if you ask to buy them. Some evidence of your violations can derive from EBT recipients who report you or data obtained from EBT records that are analyzed by computers to spot habits and patterns in the transactions.

George FernandezGeorge Fernandez
14:16 30 Apr 24
Excellent 10 out of 10, Helped resolve my case. Jeremy explained everything and made everything easy to understand.
21:33 24 Apr 24
If you are looking for a lawyer that listens, is aggressive where needed, and holds his word above all else, Todd is the best pick. I had hired multiple attorneys prior to hiring the Spodek Group for a white collar case. The first thing that stood out to me was the cost, as anyone going through the process and dealing with the system, money was tight at that time - especially after hiring and firing multiple lawyers. The cost was not as high as others which was definitely a plus. Todd's intake process was also unlike other attorneys. He took the time to actually listen. He cared. He was trying to put himself in my shoes while I was explaining the situation to him and he really took the time to understand the whole situation. Other lawyers will give you 15 mins and send you a retainer agreement. Not Todd, I think he spent almost two hours with me as I was explaining everything.Not only was he great during the onboarding process, he was supportive and very informative through the entire plea process and eventually sentencing. After hiring him, I asked if I should hire a prison consultant, he told me to save my money as he would do everything they would. He was right and held up to his word. Later on I would hear from others that went with the prison consultants that they were a waste of money - I am glad I listened to Todd!When it came time for sentencing, two days prior to sentencing, the prosecutor tried increasing my proposed prison time by almost double - apparently a normal move. Todd and his team worked with me non-stop through the weekend prior to sentencing to ensure that I was not given additional prison time. Again, he took the time to listen and came up with a strategy to explain the case with great detail.Unfortunately, I did plead guilty as that was my best option. Todd and his whole team wrote up nearly 300 pages of a summary of what happened and why I should not be given prison time. If I breakdown the amount I spent with Todd versus the amount of work that I saw being done, I am shocked I was not charged four times as much. The other benefit was, a lot of criminal defense lawyers were just a single attorney with a paralegal or two. Todd had a team of people that I dealt with (5-7 people that I interacted with), but he was ALWAYS accessible. It would never take him more than an hour to reply unless he was in court.I was sentenced to prison and I was emotionally distraught. Todd and his team did whatever they could even after sentencing to make sure I was alright. He personally stayed in touch with my family to ensure I was doing alright and offered support to them. Most lawyers would consider the job complete at sentencing, not Todd.After prison, Todd still spent time with me to make sure I was on the right track and avoiding any potential risks in the future. He has also been giving advice on how to navigate probation etc and has not been looking at the clock for billing.Although I wish I had never been arrested in the first place, I am glad I had Todd and his team in my corner. Without them I likely would have had to spend a lot more time in prison than I did.Thank you, Todd, and the entire Spodek Law team, for helping turn what was a nightmare into a manageable situation!
Yelva Saint-PreuxYelva Saint-Preux
19:26 19 Apr 24
I am immensely grateful to the entire team at Spodek Law Group for their unwavering dedication and exceptional expertise throughout my case. From our initial consultation to the final resolution, their professionalism and tireless advocacy made all the difference. Their strategic approach and attention to detail instilled confidence in me every step of the way.Thanks to their hard work and commitment, we achieved a truly favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. Not only did they navigate the complexities of my case with precision, but they also provided invaluable support and guidance during what was undoubtedly a challenging time. I cannot recommend Spodek Law Group highly enough, especially attorneys Todd Spodek and Claire Banks; they are beacons of excellence in the legal profession.YSP.
Katherine SunKatherine Sun
18:08 18 Apr 24
my lawyer is Alex Zhik. Efficient, patient and professional
Nun yaNun ya
17:48 18 Apr 24
Todd, Ralph and Alex are amazing. Helped my husband get from a double digit number with multiple charges to a single digit, by the time I blink he will be out. They very professional and help with all your needs. They dealt with my anxiety and worry very well and they understand that your family member needs to get home as soon as possible.
Keisha ParrisKeisha Parris
20:45 15 Mar 24
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko BeautyTaïko Beauty
16:26 15 Mar 24
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence.Thank you team!
K MarK Mar
01:37 25 Jan 24
I recently had Spodek Law Group represent me for a legal matter in NYC and I am thoroughly impressed with their services.Alex Zhik secured the best possible outcome for my case.It was a seamless journey from the initial consultation to the resolution of my legal matter. From the moment I spoke to Todd about my case, his enthusiasm to help was evident, setting a positive tone for the entire experience. The efficiency and professionalism displayed by the team is commendable.A particularly noteworthy aspect of their service is their user-friendly portal to upload your documents/evidence. This not only simplified the process, but showcases their commitment to streamline the client experience.Lastly, in an industry where legal fees can often be a concern, I found their pricing to be very reasonable, making needing legal assistance feel accessible and stress-free.I am grateful for their support and wouldn't hesitate to turn to them again in the future.

Apart from trafficking, SNAP violations can include failing to post prices, charging EBT customers different (usually higher) prices than other customers, segregating EBT customers into specified checkout aisles and accepting EBT payments for nonfood items. Your customers are forbidden from using SNAP benefits to purchase beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, other tobacco products, hot, prepared foods or meals at restaurants (there are some exceptions in restaurants in some communities that offer reduced-price prepared meals to low-income or homeless people).

How You Need to Respond

The Trafficking Charge Letter that you receive will inform you, in addition to the reasons for the trafficking charge, of your options. The government may afford you the option of paying a civil monetary penalty instead of being permanently disqualified from the SNAP program altogether. You have just ten (10) days from the date of delivery of the letter to ask the FNS to impose the less drastic alternative. If you don’t reply at all, you waive your right to choose. Bear in mind that trafficking normally ends up in a permanent disqualification from participating in the SNAP program. This means you can never enter the program again.

To see if you are eligible for the less drastic penalty, the agency will take into account the extent you create or attempt to create a culture of obedience to SNAP legislation in your business. The criteria include the way in which you respond to violations and what you have put in place or have done to make certain that employees remain compliant – before there can be a violation. Our SNAP violation lawyers can assist you in collecting the necessary evidence so you can meet the criteria for avoiding permanent disqualification.

Policy Standards for Compliance

FNS wants to see documented proof of your store policies for handling SNAP benefits. Do employees who violate SNAP rules face sanctions or dismissal? What do you do to correct mistakes or violations? What procedures do you have in place in your store for internally reviewing EBT transactions?

Your history of compliance is very relevant in the decision of whether you can avoid permanent disqualification. If it’s a first offense, you can persuade FNS to simply levy a monetary penalty instead of barring you entirely from the SNAP program. If the proprietors knew about or benefited from a previous trafficking violation, you are more likely to suffer disqualification. Also, avoidance of disqualification cannot occur if weapons, ammunition or controlled substances were part of the trading of EBT benefits. Extensive trafficking or circumstances that involve significant amounts of money are also highly likely to draw disqualification.

Compliance Training

To be eligible for the penalty option in lieu of disqualification, you need to show the FNS that you took the steps to train your staff about the SNAP rules. This includes your managers and all of your employees whose position and duties include handling EBT cards, such as cashiers. Your training program should include detailed written instructions against accepting EBT benefits for firearms, ammunition, or controlled substances.

In this respect, documentation of the training programs or education is crucial. Your logs must show that the employees were trained by you on SNAP rules before the violation occurred. Your files must clearly show dates of hire and training of each staff member. As a step in your training program, you could even furnish a copy of publications or regulations from FNS to each new hire. Get a signature from each one acknowledging receipt of the booklet and any other written materials.

After replying to the Charge Letter, FNS will decide whether to move forward with the permanent disqualification or charge you the monetary fine instead. If they opt for the former, your disqualification takes effect right away. Once this happens, you won’t be able to participate in SNAP even if you go through with an appeal through administrative or judicial review. In the event that either forum yields a reversal of the disqualification, FNS does not reimburse you for the sales you lost during the review period.

On the other hand, if you are eligible for the civil monetary penalty and you appeal the trafficking charges, you may continue to receive EBT funds for your customers’ purchases until the reviews are complete.

After the Charge Letter

Again, you have a mere ten (10) days after FNS delivers its written decision to request an administrative review. An FNS reviewer will determine whether to uphold the action or reverse it.

If the FNS reviewer maintains that you should be disqualified or should be subject to other penalties for trafficking, your next option is judicial review. You must request this by filing a lawsuit in state court or federal district court within thirty (30) days after the reviewer’s decision is served on you. Our lawyers can help you to start the lawsuit and prepare for the trial.

A Charge Letter for SNAP trafficking is an extremely grave threat to your business. The deadlines to act run quickly and require prompt, thorough and decisive action on your part. Call one of our SNAP attorneys for help navigating through this process.

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