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What is EBT Trafficking and Why is it Illegal?

March 21, 2024

What is EBT Trafficking and Why is it Illegal?

At Spodek Law Group, we understand the serious legal consequences that can come from EBT trafficking charges. If you or someone you know has been accused of EBT trafficking, it’s crucial to understand exactly what this offense entails and why it is considered a crime. Our experienced attorneys are here to provide the information and legal guidance you need during this stressful time.

What is EBT Trafficking?

EBT, which stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer, is the system used to distribute food stamp benefits (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) to eligible low-income individuals and families. Recipients are provided with an EBT card, similar to a debit card, which they can use to purchase approved food items at participating retailers.EBT trafficking occurs when someone sells their EBT card or SNAP benefits for cash, or exchanges them for non-food items like drugs, weapons, or other illegal goods. It can also involve a retailer allowing a recipient to purchase prohibited items with their EBT card. Some common examples of EBT trafficking include:

  • Buying, selling, or stealing EBT cards for cash
  • Exchanging SNAP benefits for guns, ammunition, explosives or drugs
  • Purchasing items with bottle refunds, dumping out the contents, and returning the containers for cash
  • Buying eligible food items with the intent to resell them for money
  • A retailer giving a SNAP recipient cash back on an EBT purchase

In essence, any time SNAP benefits are exchanged for cash or non-food items, either directly or indirectly, it is considered trafficking. This is a serious offense that carries harsh penalties for all parties involved.

Why is EBT Trafficking Illegal?

The SNAP program is designed to provide nutritional assistance to vulnerable populations who are struggling to afford food. When someone traffics their benefits, they are misusing government funds for unintended purposes. This takes resources away from people who genuinely need help putting food on the table.Additionally, EBT trafficking often involves other illegal activities, like drug dealing or selling stolen goods. It can fuel the underground economy and contribute to increased crime rates in communities. For these reasons, the federal government takes EBT trafficking very seriously and imposes strict penalties on offenders.

Consequences for SNAP Recipients

If a SNAP recipient is caught trafficking their benefits, they face losing their eligibility for the program – often permanently. Even on a first offense, they can be barred from receiving benefits for up to a year. With subsequent violations, disqualification periods increase to two years or more. In the most egregious cases, a recipient may be permanently banned from SNAP.Aside from not being able to receive critical food assistance, recipients engaged in trafficking may also face criminal charges depending on the severity of their offense. This could result in fines and even jail time. It‘s simply not worth risking the legal ramifications or losing access to vital benefits.

Penalties for Retailers

Retailers who participate in EBT trafficking often face even harsher consequences than recipients. Stores that are caught exchanging cash for SNAP benefits or allowing recipients to purchase ineligible items can be permanently disqualified from accepting EBT as a form of payment. For many small grocers and convenience stores in low-income areas, losing the ability to process EBT can be a death sentence for their business.On top of program disqualification, retailers may be subject to substantial fines based on the dollar amount of fraudulent transactions. Civil penalties can be up to $100,000 per violation. But it doesn‘t necessarily stop there. Retailers who traffic large amounts of benefits may also face federal criminal charges punishable by up to 20 years in prison, depending on the value of the trafficked benefits. Fines in criminal cases can reach $250,000 or more.The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is cracking down hard on retailers engaged in EBT trafficking. They employ sophisticated data mining techniques to identify suspicious patterns that may indicate a store is trafficking. Undercover investigators also conduct compliance visits to catch retailers in the act. If your store is accused of EBT trafficking, you can expect a swift and aggressive prosecution.

Defending Against EBT Trafficking Charges

Because of the serious consequences involved, it‘s critical for both SNAP recipients and retailers to mount a strong legal defense if accused of EBT trafficking. But these cases are extremely complex and difficult for the average person to handle on their own. You need an experienced attorney who understands the nuances of SNAP regulations and how to strategically fight the allegations.At Spodek Law Group, our nationally-recognized attorneys have successfully represented numerous clients in EBT trafficking matters. We know what it takes to win these cases. When you hire our firm, here’s what you can expect:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
2024-03-12
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  • A meticulous review of all evidence against you to identify weaknesses in the government’s case
  • A thorough independent investigation to uncover exculpatory evidence
  • Skilled negotiation with prosecutors to have charges reduced or dismissed when possible
  • Aggressive courtroom representation if your case goes to trial
  • Assistance with SNAP administrative proceedings to protect your benefits or your ability to accept EBT

We understand what’s at stake when you’re facing EBT trafficking charges. Your freedom, your livelihood, and your reputation are all on the line. That’s why we fight tenaciously to secure the best possible outcome in every case we handle. Our battle-tested attorneys are ready to put our extensive experience to work for you.

Don’t Face EBT Trafficking Charges Alone

If you’ve been charged with EBT trafficking, it’s normal to feel scared and overwhelmed. But you don’t have to face this daunting situation by yourself. The knowledgeable attorneys at Spodek Law Group are here to provide the strong advocacy you need every step of the way. We’ll thoroughly explain your options, meticulously prepare your defense, and work tirelessly to protect your rights and your future.Don’t make the mistake of trying to handle EBT trafficking charges on your own. There’s simply too much at risk. Contact the Spodek Law Group today at 212-300-5196 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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Todd Spodek

Founding Partner

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RALPH P. FRANCHO, JR

Associate

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JEREMY FEIGENBAUM

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ELIZABETH GARVEY

Associate

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CLAIRE BANKS

Associate

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RAJESH BARUA

Of-Counsel

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CHAD LEWIN

Of-Counsel

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