SNAP fraud happens when an individual sells their SNAP benefits for extra cash, and this classifies under the law of trafficking. However, SNAP fraud also occurs when a person lies on their application to receive more benefits than they legally should have. You have a variety of reasons someone might incur SNAP fraud charges.
A Look at the Facts
Trafficking in SNAP has dropped dramatically over the last several years because improvements to the program and increased oversight from the USDA. In fact, within the last two decades, the trafficking rate fell from four cents on the dollar from 1993 to 1 cent since 2006. This is the most recent statistic on it, and it has likely improved even more since. The federal government has begun to aggressively fight back against SNAP trafficking.
Ensuring the Right People Get Helped
The USDA works tirelessly on the behalf of the American taxpayer, and they have set out to protect them from fraud. They ensure the money targeted to families who need it most get it. In fact, the USDA uses aggressive methods of the control of trafficking through SNAP purchase data, and they look to identify suspicious transaction patterns. Undercover investigations have also been conducted. In some cases, the USDA has collaborated with other investigative agencies to help bring down those in violation of SNAP regulations.
SNAP also implemented an electronic benefits transfer, which has handed the USDA new tools to help track and take action against those trafficking in SNAP. These EBT transactions help to identify suspicious activity and trafficking.
How They Prosecute
The USDA opened a special unit for investigating and analyzing SNAP fraud. In fact, they have over 100 investigators and analysts across the nation who ensure retailers remain in compliance with SNAP. They analyze the retailer data, and they even conduct undercover investigations in some cases to process information. Some of the penalties against a retailer include:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Imprisonment for up to five years
In some cases, you could face both of these penalties. For recipients caught trafficking in food stamps, the penalties include:
- Temporary disqualification from 12 to 24 months
- Permanent program disqualification
- Repayment of the benefits illegally obtained
Dos and Don’ts of Joining SNAP
For those who use their benefits for food, they have nothing to worry about. You should always tell the truth on your application because otherwise it classifies as trafficking, and you can get into legal trouble for it. Also, you should report your income changes to a caseworker. For those who want to exercise their rights as US citizens, they should report suspicious activities to this phone number: (800)424-9121.
In addition, always keep your PIN number and EBT card secured. Never sell your benefits for cash, and also, don’t pay money to apply for SNAP. This program doesn’t cost anything to get started with, and you shouldn’t share your EBT card. Also, never share your PIN number with anyone outside of your family.
Becoming a Responsible Public Citizen
As a citizen, never ignore suspicious activity. Also, don’t spread myths about the program. As a retailer, you especially have a responsibility to tell the truth on the application, and you should also train your employees about the rules of SNAP. Also, never buy benefits for cash, and don’t sell ineligible foods. You should teach your employees how to handle SNAP regulations. Having policies in place help retailers in the event they ever get charged with the violation of SNAP regulations. Any retailer who hasn’t created these policies should do it before violations occur.
Compliance Policies the USDA Creates
The USDA needs the following to be considered adequate. First, it requires documentation to reflect the development of policies that terminate employees who violate the SNAP regulations. Second, they need documentation of a policy to show the procedures and how it works. This documentation also shows the procedure that must take place following complaints about SNAP violations. Finally, the documentation will show the procedures and an internal review for employee compliance. If you’re a retailer, you can also speak with a law firm to make sure you stay up to compliance on the latest SNAP regulations.
Types of Violations
USDA inspectors look for different red flags when seeking out a SNAP violation. The most common to take place is when those with benefits sell them for cash. Second, they look for lying on an application to receive more benefit than they have entitlement to. Next, you have retailer violations, and when a retailer violates SNAP he will receive a charge letter to outline the food nutrition service in charge of the prosecution. The charge letter will have a detailed analysis of the violation, and it looks at when, why and how it occurred. The letter will also indicate the potential sanctions for the fraud. However, a lawyer can take you over how to respond, and she can also help you to defend yourself against the alleged fraud charges. The federal government chooses an aggressive approach to prosecuting those who allegedly violate SNAP regulations. Companies who violate the regulations the first time could find themselves disqualified from the program for up to six months. Those who violate SNAP multiple times will suffer a permanent disqualification, and they will no longer be allowed to accept SNAP payment.
As a business, you want to make sure you have done your best to stop SNAP fraud because disqualification from this program will lose you hundreds or possibly even thousands of dollars every day. Businesses face a unique challenge because these charges can be raised even when the violation occurred because of an employee or through management. Unfortunately, the owner suffers the punishment even if they weren’t aware of these actions. Because of this, business owners have to adopt measures to prevent violations. Speaking with a law firm can help you do this.