NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS
Last Updated on: 13th September 2023, 08:49 pm
SNAP Violation Defense Lawyers
Any retailer that accepts EBT payments for the SNAP program is at risk of eventually receiving a SNAP violation letter. If there are any transactions the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA sees as being fraudulent, the letter will come and show hundreds or thousands of transactions.
Understanding SNAP Violations
Although each state has its own SNAP program, the program itself is run by the federal government. SNAP itself is overseen and enforced by the USDA and Food and Nutrition Service or FNS.
Possible SNAP Violations
Consequences of SNAP Disqualification
Every person in this country should be able to get enough food to eat every single day. State and federal programs ensure that Americans are able to eat.
Handling a SNAP Violation Letter
Retailers who are part of the SNAP program but found to be in violation of it will get a SNAP violation letter. This letter is given by the USDA when a business is deemed to have violated the rules and laws of the program.
What to Do After You’re Accused
Consulting An Attorney For A SNAP Violation Defense
Back in 2013, the United States Congress had received a report that detailed the dramatic increase in violations to the SNAP program. Congress decided to act on this report, thereby mandating a crackdown on certain stores that were found to be in violation. The next year, Congress had created a mandate in which stores needed to use an alert system to disqualify and suspend thousands of SNAP participating stores who were found to be in violation. Sadly, even certain stores that were only guilty of minor violations were treated like they were major violators. Businesses that accept payments from EBT cards, electronic benefits transfer, the snap program or WIC have been found to be falling into non-compliance risk. Because of this, many stores were led to having losses in their gross sales and were not able to recover.
Importance of Legal Representation
Whether your business is facing a major violation or minor one, it’s in your best interest to get help from an experienced SNAP violation lawyer. Small grocers and convenience stores rely heavily on the money made from these types of transactions to stay in business. Therefore, it is crucial for many of these businesses to seek out legal representation for help with their violation charges. In order to appreciate the need for an experienced violation lawyer, businesses need to know full well what the penalties are for being charged with a snap violation.
Snap Violation Penalties
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is able to give the following snap penalties:
- Civil fines
- Temporary disqualification from the snap program
- Permanent disqualification from the snap program
Each of these penalties were designed to affect a business’ ability to conduct business. Both temporary and permanent disqualifications from the snap program can have a long-term impact on a business’ revenue. For stores to receive a civil fine, it could mean having to part with thousands of dollars in your revenue budget. For some store, this could mean having to close, especially small convenience stores and grocery stores. It is rare for snap violators to face criminal charges. However, it will ultimately depend on the scope of your trafficking snap violation allegations. There is so much at stake that retaining an attorney for help in defending yourself against the violations can have a huge impact on how your case turns out.
Civil Fine Penalty
For some SNAP violators, the Government’s Federal Regulations code can authorize the USDA to impose a civil fine against food stamp trafficking. The amount of the fine will depend solely on the volume of the transactions, the severity of the allegations against your business and how many offenses you have violated within your business.
Even with temporary disqualifications, it can be very damaging to a business. The severity of the damage will depend on your business’ cash status and how long the disqualification will last. The USDA can issue temporary disqualifications that range from around six months to five years.
For a lot of businesses, a permanent disqualification could mean the end of business. Store owners and retailers get a lot of their revenue from snap customers. In some cases, EBT customers can account for more than 70 percent of total customers.
There are many circumstances in offenses which may lead to a business getting permanently disqualified:
- Yourself or your workers knowingly engage in snap trafficking. This is defined as buying, selling, stealing or exchanging the snap benefits. The exchange may be done in the form of favors, cash or other ineligible items.
- You or your workers knowingly submit false information to the EBT program during an application process or other instances when you are supposed to provide valid information.
How To Prevent Snap Violations
It is evident to see that many smaller grocery stores and shops can lose a lot after receiving a snap violation. Because of this, it is crucial that stores remain compliant and continually take active measures in order to prevent these violations from occurring. There are some practices that can be followed in order to help remain on the right side of the law where the snap program is concerned. You can remain in compliance by following the program’s written guidelines, participating in training courses and keeping your store organized. If you find your business is facing a snap violation charge, you should consult a lawyer.
Having a full understanding of snap violation fraud can help a business avoid violations which could result in a loss of profit. To ensure your business has a future, consult with a SNAP violation lawyer today.
Many small grocery and convenience stores accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards in payment. If you operate a store that accepts EBT, you may receive a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Violation Letter from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
You may receive a variety of attachments to the SNAP Violation Letter, containing hundreds to thousands of individual transactions that the USDA believes may fall into a range of violations categories. If you receive a snap Violation Letter, realize this isn’t a DIY project. Contact the New York snap Violation Defense Attorneys immediately for an initial case evaluation. Since you have just 10 days from the receipt of the letter to file a response with the USDA, call us now. The USDA may terminate or suspend your store’s ability to accept EBT payments.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP
snap offers participants a certain amount of food benefits credits each month. Each user’s benefits are loaded on an EBT card that functions and looks like a bank debit card. Of course, snap EBT cards are substantially different from debit cards issued by banks and credit unions: 1) the user can’t spend or use the benefits amount on the snap card for any purpose other than the purchase of foods and qualified purchases, and 2) the user can’t get cash from the EBT card.
Until the late 1990s, users were issued food stamps by their residence state. Then and now, the snap program (formerly known as the Food Stamps Program) were administered by the U.S. government and implemented by each state.
The snap program is governed by 7 U.S.C. Chapter 51 (United States Code) and 7 C.F.R. § 278 (Code of Federal Regulations. USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service administers the program and enforces the laws in place to protect it.
What’s a SNAP Violation?
A snap Violation is said to occur when an authorized retailer violates any of the SNAP Program’s rules, including:
• USDA says the retailer “trafficked” in snap EBT benefits. Trafficked typically means the store stole or fraudulently accepted snap benefits.
• The retailer accepted snap in exchange for ineligible items such as tobacco, cleaning products, alcohol, etc.
• The retailer’s staff, management, or owner(s) intentionally provided false information about the business in order to accept EBT payments.
• The retailer’s EBT payments exceeded its sales of foodstuffs over a certain period of time.
• The retailer’s staff or employees accepted snap payments from an individual or individuals that weren’t legally authorized to use them.
• The retailer kept a tab or credit account in exchange for the customer’s EBT payments.
• The retailer was previously disqualified from participating in its state Women, Infants’, and Children’s (WIC) program. In some circumstances, the USDA may proceed to disqualify the retailer from participating in the snap Program.
SNAP Violation Defenses
Our law firm is experienced in defending clients against a wide range of snap Violation Letters. We are experienced in any of the three types of snap Violation actions that your business may be subject to, including:
1. snap Violation Charging Letter (Phase 1). This is the USDA’s first step in removing your business’s EBT license. You may have received prior warnings but it’s not unusual for the letter to arrive without previous communications. A Phase 1 letter typically arrives with several allegations. Most of these allegations refer to attachments to provide more details. Your response to the Phase 1 snap Violation Letter must be submitted within 10 days of receipt. When you retain us, we assume responsibility for your business’s communications with USDA, the compilation of evidence, and writing and delivering a complete, accurate response that addresses the USDA’s allegations.
2. snap Administrative Appeal (Phase 2). The USDA will move to Phase 2 if it continues to believe the business has violated its terms and conditions. At that point, the USDA issues a second letter to set forth the decision to disqualify or suspend the business’s license. Again, the business has just 10 days to appeal the Phase 2 decision. If you fail to respond within the 10-day period, USDA will move to disqualify or suspend the business’s ability to accept EBT. After you retain our firm, we will file the required paperwork with the Department to challenge the Phase 2 decision. We will collect evidence to support your appeal, write the appellate brief, and provide additional information as appropriate to show the Administrative Review Agency that its decision is wrong.
3. snap Judicial Appeal (Phase 3). The USDA Administrative Review Agency can decide to overturn or maintain its first decision. In the event it maintains the decision, your business must move to file for Judicial Review in the appropriate Federal District Court. The Phase 3 case operates much like any court case. You have the right to conduct discovery, file necessary motions, and go to trial. We are experienced in the handling cases in New York and other states, depending on the location of your business or retail location.
New York SNAP Violation Defense Attorney
Most convenience stores and groceries depend on revenues received from their customers’ EBT sales. Experienced legal representation can make a difference in the outcome after the USDA notifies you of alleged violations in the Phase 1 snap Violation Letter.
We have successfully represented large and small groceries, food delivery services, and convenience stores.
USDA ALERT Computer System and Your Business
USDA’s snap Violation Report shows that SNAP benefits’ trafficking has dramatically increased in the last 20 years. In response to the data, Congress directed USDA to investigate fraud in the snap system. To comply with its directive, USDA began to use the ALERT computer system to find suspicious snap benefits transactions. The ALERT system is used to identify businesses that are noncompliant and to disqualify or suspend thousands of businesses from accepting EBT across the country.
Unfortunately for the USDA, the ALERT computer system has significant flaws. False positives, or misidentification of stores and/or transactions, are common. The New York snap Violation Defense Attorneys work to explain our clients’ misidentifications and to get trafficking charges dropped.
Protect Your Business’s Revenues
Some small retailers count on EBT transactions for a significant portion of annual revenues. Don’t risk your business’s bottom line. Although each client and case is different, we want to help each client eliminate USDA charges as soon as possible.
Contact Spodek Law Group to discuss your case now.
Understanding SNAP Regulations and Violations
As a food store retailer, there are several laws and regulations that you need to adhere to. In most cases, retail owners have no problem adhering to the general rules and guidelines such as selling food that is fit for the purpose intended. However, there are certain government instituted programs that expose these store owners to litigation issues due to violations. One of the notable examples is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
snap is a government initiative aimed at replacing the 1990s Food Stamp Program. snap is designed to provide food purchasing help to needy families and individuals. People under this program are given an Electronic Benefits Transfer Card that operates in a similar manner with a bank debit card. Beneficiaries of the food program use the card when purchasing food. To prevent SNAP fraud, this card has limitations. For instance, snap recipients are not allowed to use the cards to purchase electronic goods. The U.S Code of Federal Regulations also governs use of these cards. Retailers who violate these laws receive a snap violation letter from the USDA.
Penalties for snap violations include heavy fines and penalties. Serious violations can lead to temporary or permanent disqualification. In most cases, the store owners are not aware of the violations. Often, it is dishonest employees who use the snap program for their own selfish benefits. If you have received a violation charge, you should not take it lightly. It is always best to consult with a snap violation attorney. The legal expert will examine the merits of your violations and advice you appropriately.
The importance of seeking legal advice
When a charge letter is presented to a store, there is often a time limit in which the owner is expected to respond. In most cases, the charged party has 10 days to respond to the allegations detailed in the charge letter. Failure to make a response within the allocated time can paint the store in a negative light. In addition to this, the governing agency will render a verdict, and the store owner may not be given a chance to defend themselves. Knowledge of the law is crucial in preparing a defense against a snap violation charge. Without legal experience, you cannot defend your store. Retaining a violation lawyer gives you a better fighting chance.
There are several responses that the lawyer can help you make. Based on the validity of the allegations, you can challenge the findings or make a request to pay a civil money penalty. It is important to note that penalties can be expensive to the tune of thousands of dollars. The USDA imposes heavy fines so as to curb such violations. Making a civil fine request does not mean that it is will be automatically granted. There are certain factors that the USDA will consider to determine whether you qualify for a fine.
• The first thing they will check is if there is a store compliance policy in place. The policy needs to be in writing and in effect at the time the allegations were filed.
• The store also needs to be in a position to prove that a compliance policy was in place prior to the charge and it was not drafted after the violation allegations were made.
• The USDA can grant a civil fine penalty if the store had instituted a training program to train all employees on the snap regulations and EBT payments.
• The agency will also seek to establish whether the ownership of the store benefited or was aware of the violations. Any involvement by the management can lead to a temporary or permanent disqualification.
Any store that receives a violation charge needs to consult with a snap violation attorney. Failure to take action, or taking the wrong actions after a violation charge can have negative and significant consequences. The USDA is mandated by Congress to issue a disqualification for a period of up to 5 years. This can lead to huge losses that can be hard to recover from.
Defenses against a snap violation charge
There are several defenses that can be used in defending snap violations. Once you respond to the USDA allegations and they still believe that you are in violation, the case enters into the administrative appeal phase. At this stage, the Department will have issued a letter stating they intend to suspend or disqualify the store. In such a situation, the store is given 10 days to make an appeal. If no appeal is made, the store will have to comply with the decision by the Department. If you retain a lawyer, they will notify the agency within 10 days that they intend to challenge the decision. The lawyer will also proceed to collect evidence to prove your claim. The attorney will also use the federal code, case laws, and regulations to challenge the decision of the department.
In the event that the USDA fails to overturn its earlier decision, the store owner can file a judicial review. This is done in the Federal District Court. This appeal is similar to a normal trial case. The parties are expected to conduct discoveries and file motions before the judge. At this stage, you need an attorney who has trial experience. Filling reviews and preparing documents is very different from trying a case before a judge. When enlisting the services of a violation lawyer, you need to ask if they have the skills and stamina to defend your case if it goes to trial. Remember that the Department will get the service driven lawyers. It is therefore ill advised for you to attempt to defend yourself without legal consultation and representation.
Thousands of stores have been closed since 2013 when Congress issued this mandate. Hiring a lawyer can, therefore, make the difference between closing your business and keeping your doors open.
Consequences of SNAP Disqualification
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides financial assistance to people with low incomes. Individuals and families must meet eligibility requirements and go through a complicated process to file. So, SNAP officials actively look for people who try to commit fraud by falsifying their income or citizenship documents. People who are accused of fraud will lose their SNAP benefits and suffer from other legal consequences. A lawyer is needed to explain the effects of a SNAP disqualification and fight a charge in court.
Reasons for Disqualification
Anyone who receives SNAP benefits must meet the eligibility requirements. This includes meeting an income requirement that is at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. An additional requirement is for people within the ages of 16 and 59 to seek or maintain work. Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents are limited to 3 months of coverage for benefits within a three year period. Non compliance results in an automatic disqualification that lasts from three months to one year.
Recipients who no longer qualify for benefits or break the program rules are disqualified and do not receive benefits for a certain period of time. This period varies from one year to permanently. The recipients may face penalties that include reimbursing the system for money obtained through fraud.
The Types of Disqualification
An intentional program violation (IPV) occurs when the SNAP recipient commits fraud and deception. The penalty for the first offense lasts for one year. The penalty for the second offense is two years. The third offense results in a disqualification that lasts permanently. Falsifying one’s identity or statement to apply for multiple benefits will result in a 10 year disqualification. In every case, an investigator is hired to research the case and outline the reasons in a report.
Banning of Retail Stores
In addition to individuals, retail stores are disqualified for not following SNAP rules. Retailers cannot bend the rules for specific SNAP recipients by charging banned foods on food stamps. If violation is proven, the retail store is disqualified from SNAP and loses income. SNAP could file a civil lawsuit and require the retailer to repay the money that was earned fraudulently.
Not having the financial support to buy basic household items is a burden for many low-income households. Waiting another year to receive benefits is unacceptable if you did not deserve a disqualification. The lawyers at the Farar & Lewis office will protect the rights of individuals and retailers that are involved in SNAP disqualifications.
SNAP Violation Civil Money Penalties
The cost of living in the United States is high in many places, and millions of families struggle to make ends meet each day. They cannot afford to put food on the table and care for their families despite working full-time or receiving disability benefits for their families. It’s a very real struggle millions face each day, though many people are unwilling to discuss their financial issues with people they know. SNAP is a program designed by the federal government to provide nutrition assistance to families who haven’t enough money to properly provide nutrition to their families.
snap is the largest of the programs the USA has to help feed the hungry and provide the proper nutrition to children and families from low-income situations. The purpose is to provide those who work and simply cannot make ends meet a chance to feed their families so no one goes hungry. However, it’s not uncommon for both stores who accept snap and families who receive it to lie on their applications to receive free money and benefits from the program. If you are a store who takes snap benefits and you receive a SNAP Civil Money Penalty in the mail, it’s time to pay attention and take notice.
What is a civil money penalty?
In essence, the snap civil money penalty is a violation letter outlining penalties a business owes for doing improper business and benefitting from the acceptance of SNAP benefits. When a letter like this arrives in the mail to any business owner, it means serious business and it means getting help from an attorney right away. It’s a criminal offense to profit from snap benefits, and you can be heavily fined and punished for this act.
Essentially, when the United States Department of Agriculture believes your store is profiting or benefitting in any way from the improper use of snap benefits your customers bring in, they send you a letter with two options. You can respond to the letter inside the 10 days you’re issued to pay a penalty and keep your store’s snap benefits, or you can ignore the letter and see your store’s snap acceptance ability is taken from you.
You have 10 days to respond to this letter. There is not an extension process. There is no exception to this rule. The USDA wants your answer, which is whether you’re going to pay the penalty to keep your license to accept snap benefits or not.
Why bother with a civil money penalty?
What some business owners want to know is why they should pay a fine for this rather than face suspension of their snap acceptance abilities. The answer is fairly simple. Millions of dollars are spent each year through the use of snap benefits. When your store is no longer able to accept snap benefits from your customers, you lose customers. Millions of people are unable to pay for their groceries and needs with their own cash, and your inability to accept their financial assistance for food means you’re not getting their business anymore.
The financial ramifications of a suspended SNAP benefits acceptance are far more expensive for most businesses than paying a fine. However, you might not know how to handle the letter, how to pay the fine, or what to do when a letter arrives in the mail. This is especially true if you aren’t sure why you’re receiving the letter in the first place. This is why calling a criminal attorney cannot wait another day.
How an Attorney Can Help
snap civil money penalties are far from easy to understand. The number of requirements, stipulations, and rules associated with this are far too many for the average person to comprehend in 10 days or less without legal knowledge.
Does your store have a snap compliance policy? Can you prove it was in effect before it was violated? Is there a training program your store has for employees regarding snap benefits as well as a written training guide for all employees? Did your store or any of your employees directly benefit from the misuse of snap benefits in any way?
These are all questions you must be able to answer to qualify for a civil money penalty. There are dozens more, and each one is more complex than the one before. An attorney can help you sort through the paperwork, the application for the penalty, and the issuance of the notice you’ve received. Ten business days is not enough time to handle this kind of situation without the help of an attorney, and mishandling the application and/or paperwork can result in denial of a civil money penalty.
It might sound as though you don’t want to pay a penalty, which does make sense. In this situation, however, the penalty is the least expensive way to handle an issue of this magnitude. It’s a serious crime to misuse snap benefits, and losing your ability to accept snap benefits in your store can cause your business to suffer financially. This can quickly become unaffordable.
Your store is your business, which means you cannot afford to lose your ability to accept specific methods of payment. It’s time for you to call an attorney to help you with this situation when it arrives in the mail. Remember you have 10 days to get through the process, which is not easy when you don’t understand what’s being asked of you and what’s required.
An experienced snap attorney can help you lessen penalties, keep your snap benefits acceptance, and continue to work and make money. Even a short suspension can cost your business financially, and the effects of that short suspension can last a lifetime if customers choose to go elsewhere after realizing you can no longer accept their payments. It’s not worth the future financial trouble of not hiring an experienced attorney to handle the legal ramifications of this notice.