The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of the United States is designed to provide additional support to eligible, low-income individuals and families. The program is the largest of the U.S. hunger management systems and works in conjunction with other agencies, including nutrition educators and faith-based organizations. SNAP is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service, which works along with the retail community and the state to ensure program integrity and improve the administration of SNAP.
SNAP fraud takes place when a person wrongfully exchanges his or her benefits for cash. This action is called trafficking and is illegal. SNAP fraud also takes place when a person provides false information on the application in order to get benefits that technically do not belong to them or to obtain more benefits than is their due. If disqulifed from SNAP for past abuses, retailers who misrepresent themselves in orde to resume their position with the program are committing fraud.
Fraud rates have decreased dramatically over the past 20 years from four cents on the dollar to one cent on the dollar from 1993 to 2008. The United States Food and Drug Administration is looking for ways to protect American tax dollar from becoming lost through fraud. They are taking steps to ensure that the SNAP program is targeted for those families and individuals who need it most. The USDA controls trafficking by using purchase data to identify unusual transaction patterns, performing undercover investigations and working with other investigative agencies to catch those who are abusing the system.
The USDA uses the very latest in technological advances to track the use of SNAP and to control abuses. The SNAP electronic benefits transfer system (EBT) enables the USDA to identify and take action against trafficking. The electronic trail from EBT transactions stores and transmits information to those who monitor the system. The Anti-Fraud Locator using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system monitors electronic transaction activity and alerts the USDA regarding stores that are presenting unusual or suspicious behavior. These stores will then be subject to analysis and/or investigation.
During the fiscal year of 2012, more than 100 analysts and investigators evaluated upwards of 15,000 stores and completed over 4,500 undercover investigations. Almost 1,400 stores were disqualified for trafficking, while 700 stores were placed under sanctions for other violations including the sale of ineligible items such as hot deli items and personal care products. SNAP investigations during the same year resulted in 342 convictions. For the more severe offenses, these investigations resulted in several multi-year prison terms. Approximately $57.7 million dollars were collected in fines and penalties. The Food and Nutrition Service has also worked with state law enforcement personnel to provide them with the information they need for sting operations and supports them in performing anti-trafficking actions in local areas. The Inspector General of a state can conduct criminal investigations as the result of FNS findings to prosecute those who are abusing the SNAP system.
If you use EBT at your store, you may one day receive a letter charging you with a number of suspect violations of the SNAP programs. You will have a number of attached pages listing the hundreds or thousands of transactions believed to be violations of the rules of the SNAP program. When you receive your SNAP violation letter from the USDA, you will be understandably alarmed. Maybe you are being unjustly accused, but in the unfortunate event that you are actually guilty of committing a crime, you will want to get the lightest penalty possible.
The government allows you only 10 days to respond to your letter. If you fail to respond within these 10 days, the USDA will probably suspend or permanently revoke your ability to accept electronic benefit transfers. There are three phases to handling a SNAP violation charge.
The letter is the first step by the USDA to revoke your EBT license. You may or may not receive prior notice to the removal of your license and can be sent to you at any time. The charging letter will vary from situation to situation, but most letters are composed of a list of allegations with attachments containing more details.
The second phase is the review of the appeal by the USDA. If a violation is still believed to have been committed, you will be issued a second letter stating the department’s decision to suspend or disqualify your business. Again, you have 10 days to appeal this decision.
If the USDA refuses to overturn the first decision, you will need to file a judicial review in a federal court. That is where the Spodek Law Group comes in. We are a nationally recognized criminal law firm and have appeared on USA Today, Fox News and MSNBC. We have more than 50 years of combined experience among our team members and have handled virtually every criminal defense case under the sun. The future of your business and your reputation is important to us. That is why we will do everything in our power to ensure that your case is handled fairly. We have three convenient locations for our clients. These locations are in New York City, Nassau County and Suffolk County. We have multiple attorneys who have partnered with us across the country and are the law office that many attorneys refer clients to when the stakes are high.
We treat each case as the unique situation that it is. We reject the cookie-cutter approach to law and believe that a tailored approach is much more likely to achieve the desired results. We work with each client to ensure that they understand with they are up against and to prepare them for all the possible outcomes of their situation. Our #1 goal is to have all the charges dismissed or significantly reduced to minimize the impact. We offer a free initial consultation in person or over the phone to allow you to evaluate how we can best assist you. Whether you are charged with a felony, a misdemeanor or a violation, we will give you everything possible to help you through this difficult time in your life. We will never judge you for your choices, even if you are facing jail time. If you or someone you know is facing a SNAP violation charge, contact us at one of our three locations or visit our website at www.nyccriminalattorneys.com. We look forward to working with you!