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SNAP Benefits Trafficking

June 24, 2021 SNAP Violation Lawyers

SNAP Benefits Trafficking 

SNAP Benefits Trafficking remains the most serious offense an EBT retailer can be accused of.  Interestingly, it is also the most common SNAP violation that the USDA charges.  If you have been accused of trafficking in SNAP benefits at your store, the sanctions come harsh and swift, and criminal charges are a strong possibility.  It is important to understand that a trafficking allegation is much more than just a claim that your store misused a customer’s EBT card. Examples of things you cannot sell, are glass bongs, red wine, tequila, liquor, etc. 

Trafficking is characterized as any illegal exchange of snap benefits.  Such a crime can take many different forms and the USDA’s definition encompasses six different kinds of trafficking activities:

  • Buying/Selling/Stealing an EBT card or its account and/or PIN number for cash or other items of value;
  • Swapping firearms, ammunition, explosives or drugs for snap funds or for an EBT card;
  • Buying items that have a bottle refund, discarding the contents and exchanging the bottle for the refund;
  • Buying food with an EBT card for resale to someone else for cash;
  • If an snap participant purchases food with their EBT card, then exchanges it to a snap retailer store for cash or credit, that’s trafficking.
  • Disbursing “cash back” on an EBT transaction, regardless of whether or not the proprietor of the store or any of its employees benefit financially from the transaction.

How do I Know if I Have Been Charged with Trafficking?

There are three ways that grocery store owners can be charged with trafficking.  All three involve the receipt of a letter.  The “Charge Letter”, as it is called, is delivered by UPS overnight from the FNS. This letter spells out the specific allegations being charged against your store.  The most common trafficking charge is referred to as an “EBT” case.  EBT is short for for Electronic Benefit Transfer – but it is a data analysis case.  The Charge Letter looks like this:

SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter

In your charge letter, the USDA lists the transaction pattern categories that raised the red flag that lead to their finding of snap trafficking.  A number of Exhibits with lists of transactions usually comes attached to the letter.  The Department has testified in numerous cases that they believed the defendants were engaging in “cash back” trafficking transactions. We will explain to you what you should do with an EBT snap trafficking charge letter here.  Nonetheless your best chances of success in these cases almost always requires legal counsel to get involved.

Another type of trafficking charge letter is sent by the Retailer Investigations Branch, or RIB.  These charges came about because an undercover agent from the USDA secretly shopped in your store.  Such a letter will come with an affidavit attached to it that look like this:

Undercover agent affidavit

Such cases are much more oriented in the minute details than the EBT driven cases.  Without an attorney, your chances are low of mounting a successful defense.  We do offer you a free consultation, so if you got one of these letters in the mail, contact us as quickly as you can.

The final charge letter comes at the culmination of an Office of Inspector General investigation.  OIG also conducts undercover investigations, but these are customarily conducted for the purposes of bringing criminal charges.   An OIG letter looks like this:

OIG charge letter

All of these charge letters mean criminal investigations, although they do not always end up in  criminal charges against the business or it’s proprietor.  We strongly advise you against attempting to handle such matters on your own – again, we can give you a consultation free of charge to help grocery store owners to avoid making their problems bigger.

What Steps You Should Take If You Are Charged with snap Trafficking

Snap trafficking cases are grievous.  Due to their far-reaching effects, you need to fight the charges brought by the USDA.  We have compiled a snap Violation Guidebook that shows you how these kinds of cases work and what you can expect from our representation.

The first steps are often the most critical steps of the entire process.  That said, here’s a quick guide to help you understand what we are going to need from you as your legal counsel:

  1. All transaction receipts that show the purchased items in the transactions indicated by the USDA.
  2. Your store’s inventory records – this can include invoices and receipts for the food your store has purchased.
  3. The business tax records (like sales tax and 1040’s) are indeed useful.
  4. Your profit and loss statements are also helpful.

Finally, we mentioned above that you need to call an attorney for these cases.  Our law firm is the longest practicing and most knowledgeable snap Trafficking specialist in the United States.  We boast the largest repository of expertises on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of any law firm, and the officials at the Department is well acquainted with our lawyers.  Who you decide to retain for your battle will make a difference in the outcome of your case. Don’t sell yourself short with delaying and stalling strategies: plan your case to win your case.

Give us a call today for your free consultation, 1-833-SNAP-Law.



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