If your firm received a letter from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), indicating that your firm has violated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations, you are a target for criminal prosecutions for retail food stamp fraud. Just give an immediate call to New York City retail food stamp fraud lawyers and they will immediately start protecting your rights.
Learn More About Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The SNAP, previously referred to as Food Stamp Program is offered by the FNS (Food and Nutrition Service) of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in collaboration with state agencies. This program funds low-income earners allowing them to access more nutritious food. SNAP is the United States first line of defense against hunger and is a critical supplement to the monthly budget of food of millions of low-income persons. Almost half of the SNAP participants are kids, and more than forty percent of beneficiaries live in households with low earnings.
In New York City, this program offers eligible persons with an EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card referred to as the Independence Card, that works like a debit card. Beneficiaries receive the EBT cards through the DHR (Department of Human Resources) and make use of the said cards to buy approved food from the participating food retailers.
Store owners must apply to the program and be authorized by Food and Nutritional Service in order to participate in the food stamp program. Approved retailers employ a point-of-sale terminal which verifies the EBT card data and deducts the monetary value of the food purchased from the client’s SNAP benefit balance. Reimbursements are afterward paid to food retailing firms through electronic money transfer. Store owners bill the government after proving that they offered authorized food items only.
What Is Retail Food Stamp Fraud?
SNAP fraud occurs when Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits are traded for cash. This is also known as food stamp trafficking, and it is regarded as a serious offense under the New York City law. It is alleged that New York City firms, which received a charge letter from FNS, exchanged the card benefits for cash, which is a serious violation of the SNAP program rules. There are allegations that the food retailers paid a particular value of the card benefits in cash.
In an attempt to avoid being detected, allegations are that the New York City food retailers usually debited the money from the EBT card in many transactions over a period a couple of minutes, hours or even days. As a result of the illegal cash transactions, food retailers are said to have obtained thousands of dollars in card deposits for cash transactions in which the retailers didn’t provide food.
Food retailers are alleged to have received all the instructions regarding the regulations and requirements of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including that only the authorized food items could be traded for EBT benefits and that a food retailer should never exchange EBT benefits for non-food items including cash.
How Does The Federal Government Conduct Investigations Concerning Retail Food Stamp Fraud?
The Obama administration and USDA are aggressively working to protect the federal investment in the SNAP to make sure the program entirely benefits those families who need it the most. The SNAP Stewardship Solutions Program is a part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing campaign to cut down on waste. The project is designed to fight abuse, fraud, and misuse in federal programs. USDA actively functions to control food stamp trafficking by making use of SNAP purchase information to identify suspicious transaction patterns, doing undercover investigations, and through working hand-in-hand with other investigative agencies.
USDA uses the latest technology to control and track abuse of the SNAP. SNAP EBT (electronic benefit transfer) has provided USDA with new tools to monitor, identify, and take the appropriate action against retail food stamp fraud. They use the electronic audit trail from electronic benefits transfer transactions to detect food stamp trafficking and any other suspicious activity. The Anti-trafficking locator using ALERT (EBT Retailer Transactions) system monitors electronic transactions activities and identifies suspicious retailers for analysis and thorough investigation.
FNS has employed a team of more than 100 investigators and analysts in the United States dedicated to SNAP food retailer compliance. They are tasked to analyze food retailer’s data, conduct undercover investigations, processing cases including administrative disqualifications and penalties against violating firms. FNS also collaborates with the state law enforcement authorities. They give them SNAP benefits for use in sting operations to support anti-fraud actions at the local level.
In addition, USDA’s Office of the Inspector General usually conducts extensive criminal investigations. Most of these investigations are largely facilitated by FNS administrative oversight referrals and findings and assists the law enforcement authority to prosecute the violating firms.
After FNS is through with the process of gathering sufficient evidence regarding retail food stamp fraud, the USDA FNS will send you a charge letter. The sent charge letter will highlight the actions or violations that FNS considers to be the reasons for disqualification or reasons for the imposition of a civil monetary penalty. The letter must clearly specify the actions that constitute violations. The charge letter informs the food retailers that they can respond within ten days upon receipt of the letter. You can either respond via the phone, orally or in writing.
What Consequences Can I Face If Found Guilty Of Retail Food Stamp Fraud?
If you are a food retailer, you face very harsh consequences if you are found guilty of trafficking food stamps. Penalties for this offense are terribly severe. The FNS may decide to disqualify a food retailer for SNAP trafficking permanently, and they may do so without further investigations. As a food retailer, permanent disqualification from the food stamp program is detrimental to your business. Many disqualified food retailers just leave the business if they can’t accept SNAP simply because they can’t compete with the retailers that do accept food stamps.
Section 278.6 of Title VII of the United States Code states the penalties for food retailers found guilty of food stamp fraud. FNS is allowed to disqualify permanently any retail food store from participating in the program if the firm has violated the Food Stamp Act of 1977. If a retail food firm is disqualified, disqualification lasts for a minimum period of six months to five years for the firm’s first sanction. If the firm is sanctioned for the second time, then the minimum period of disqualification shoots to between twelve months and ten years.
The law states with clarity that any firm found guilty of retail food stamp fraud will be permanently disqualified from participating in the SNAP program. Civil or even criminal action may be taken against you by the United States Attorney. Also, a fiscal claim can be assessed to recover the financial losses to the federal government which resulted from SNAP trafficking violations.
If a firm is disqualified and would like to be reinstated after the disqualification period ends, the firm should file a new application for participation in the SNAP program under §278.1. The application will be reviewed by FNS as an entirely new application in order to fleshly determine whether authorization to participate in the SNAP program will be granted.
FNS also has the discretion to impose a CMP (Civil Monetary Penalty) of up to $59,000.00 in lieu of a permanent disqualification of your firm for retail food stamp fraud. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program regulations, section 278.6(i), outline the criteria that you must fulfill for you to be considered for a Civil Monetary Penalty.
If you want to request for a Civil Monetary Penalty, you must meet each and every criterion outlined and provide all the documents required within ten calendar days of the receipt of a charge letter. No extension of time can be given for requesting a CMP or submitting the required documents.
If you fail to make a request for Civil Monetary Penalty within the ten days as outlined, or you don’t make any request at all, you will be automatically barred from getting a civil monetary penalty in lieu of permanent disqualification.
If you are disqualified, your disqualification is effective as soon as you receive a notice of determination, regardless of whether you file a request for review. If the judicial or administrative review under part 279 reverses your disqualification, you have no recourse as a retailer for the revenue or the value of the loss of sales during the entire period of disqualification.
All the documents together with the written request must be postmarked by the midnight of the tenth calendar day after you receive the charge letter, for you to be considered timely. If the tenth calendar day falls on a weekend or a legal holiday, a request and the documents will be regarded as timely if it is postmarked the next day which is not a weekend or a federal holiday.
If your request and the needed documents are not provided on time, you will lose your right for any further consideration for a Civil Monetary Penalty. If determined that you qualify for the penalty, the amount of that penalty will be $ 59,000.00. Full payment is due within 30 days after receiving the FNS determination letter.
Retail food stores that apply and are determined to be eligible for a CMP instead of permanent disqualification for trafficking can continue participating in the SNAP program pending review and will not be required to pay the CMP pending appeal of the trafficking determination action.
How Do I Respond To The Charge Letter?
The retail store must submit their response to FNS, which provides information and evidence concerning the actions or violations. Any detailed explanations of the circumstances will be of great help in the retailer’s case. You are required to send your response to the officer who sent you the charge letter.
How Can A Retail Food Stamp Fraud Lawyer In New York City Assist Me?
Charges of Retail Food Stamp Fraud can be extremely hard to prove and quite complex to defend. However, at Spodek Law Group, our food stamp fraud lawyers are highly skilled and have many years of experience in protecting the rights of firms charged with Retail Food Stamp Fraud. They will make the greatest effort possible to discredit any form of evidence that is not in your favor. They invest their sweat, blood, and tears to ensure that your rights are not infringed.
If any evidence was improperly obtained or if you were unlawfully questioned, we can efficiently and effectively deal with such issues. You may probably have acted without criminal intent. In such a case, your attorney will gather the witnesses or evidence to prove it. Your attorney will be carefully looking for any avenue that can help you out, it’s therefore, vital that you provide your lawyer with all the information that can support your case.
Why Do I Need To Consult A New York State Lawyer Immediately?
Whenever you are up against a food stamp fraud charge, you are supposed to respond to the charge letter within not more than ten days. Whatever you say in response to this letter may be taken out of context and possibly be used against you. You therefore need a determined and a highly dedicated lawyer to stand by you in every step of your way. The lawyer will closely work hard with you to discredit any form of evidence and to determine your best course of action.
What You Need To Know About Spodek Law Group Food Stamp Fraud Lawyers
The Retail Food Stamp Fraud Attorneys at Spodek Law Group are always available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. They readily and proudly offer a free consultation. They represent retail stores all over New York State, who have been charged with Retail Food Stamp Fraud.
An attorney specialized in food stamp fraud cases will analyze the evidence and information provided by the FNS USDA, which made them believe that you probably violated SNAP regulations and try to prove why the claims against your firm should be dismissed outright. And, if impossible they can work with federal or state authorities to possibly minimize the adverse impact of your charges as much as they can and mitigate your risk for criminal or civil prosecution.
How Does Spodek Law Group Food Stamp Fraud Lawyers Determine The Amount of Service Fee?
We usually charge a flat fee for all our services no matter the amount of time spent to have your case resolved. We will stand with you side by side until this matter is completely resolved.