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SNAP Dismissal of Trafficking Charges

April 21, 2020

Dismissal of SNAP Trafficking Charges

Have you been faced with a violation involving SNAP charges, Food Stamp Trafficking or fraud? If so, then our Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you.

Although the rate of the allegations has gone down over the years for such violations, allegations are still being made by the USDA against store owners and the sanctions for these violations are severe.

What is SNAP?

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides its participants with a specified monetary value in food benefits on a monthly basis. The benefits are paid out to them by using a card-based system called Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT.

That said, there are several limitations as well as exceptional differences between the SNAP benefits and a traditional bank card.

(1) The SNAP benefits that are dispersed on the EBT card are not for general use or for general spending in the traditional way that most cards are and

(2) No cash-back is allowed for disbursements from funds that have been reserved for food.

The EBT cards replaced paper food stamps in the late 1990’s. In this new system, the benefits are disbursed to the EBT cards by the state in which the SNAP recipient lives.

Both the SNAP program and the benefits that are associated with it are governed by the United States Code (7 U.S.C. Chapter 51) and the Code of Federal Regulations (7 C.F.R. §278).

The program is run, regulated and enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) Agency.

Common Violations associated with SNAP

The most frequent violations that are associated with SNAP are related to SNAP and Food Stamp Trafficking. EBT trafficking is characterized by illegal transactions including buying, selling, stealing or exchanging SNAP benefits for cash or for ineligible items such alcohol and cigarettes or for submitting false information.

Sanctions for Food Stamp Trafficking and General Violations of SNAP Regulations

Violators of SNAP laws can face the possibility of three primary penalties that are enforced by the USDA when they are convicted of SNAP and Food Stamp related trafficking charges.

1. Permanent disqualification from the program
2. Temporary disqualification from the program
3. A monetary civil fine

The function of these penalties is to make a palpable impact on your ability to continue to do business or even to keep the doors of your retail store open.

Those sanctions that relate to either temporary or permanent disqualification will have a tremendous impact on your store’s revenue. Many proprietors have unfortunately had to close their business as a result. Nonetheless, a civil fine may have a similar impact when it weighs in as high as several thousands of dollars.

In some rare cases, violators are slapped with criminal charges of trafficking on top of basic violations. This is based on the size and scope of the specifically alleged EBT trafficking that the government believes has taken place.

What should you do if you get a SNAP Violation Letter

You may at some point receive a SNAP Violation Letter from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The purpose of this letter is to notify you that you are being charged with an alleged violation. Review any additional pages may have come attached to the back of the SNAP Violation Letter you received. These extra sheets could contain as many as several hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of transactions. Here is your indication that the Department believes that these are the transactions that amount to violations within several different categories.

To prevent your matter from escalating, please call our office right away upon receiving your SNAP Violation Letter. Be prompt, as you have just TEN days to respond to the charges detailed in the letter. Neglecting to respond within this period will result in the Department likely suspending or terminating your privileges to accept EBT.

How Does Our Law Office Defend You Against Allegations of SNAP Violations?

This criminal law firm has much experience in handling a wide variety of SNAP Violation Letters and the charges in them that are brought against our clients. Our expertise spans three phases of the SNAP Violations prosecution process. They include:

Phase 1- The Violation Letter

The first step that is taken by the USDA is dispatching the SNAP Violation Letter. This step is aimed at winning a revocation of your store’s EBT license. This initial Violation Letter may or may not come behind forewarnings and these letters can show up at any moment.

There are a number of different categories of allegations that are associated with a Violation Letter. Nevertheless, the majority of them come with much detail that contains the facts that triggered each of the allegations they are making against you. If you wish to submit a response, the USDA requires that you do so within 10 (ten) days.

We handle Phase 1 by taking on the responsibility of crafting and dispatching all communications with the USDA from then on. In addition, we compile any necessary evidence, then we prepare and deliver a thorough response to the allegations made against our clients. From that point, we await their response and then move forward based on the response received by the USDA’s representative.

Phase 2 – Administrative Appeal

Phase 2 entails a response from the USDA after they have reviewed the store’s reply to their first SNAP Violation Letter. Customarily the letter will say that the USDA maintains that they are valid and violations have indeed been committed in the store. They send out a second letter stating their decision to either suspend or disqualify your store from the program based on the allegations that were initially spelled out in their first violation letter. At that stage, you have 10 (ten) days to appeal their decision. If you do not appeal, then your store will be left with a suspended or disqualified license.

From the time you retain our firm, our criminal lawyers will expeditiously file all necessary paperwork and correspond with the USDA to notify their Administrative Appeal agency of our intentions to appeal their decision.

We will act on your behalf to round up any and all additional evidence that could be of use to you in an appeal. We also handle the drafting of an appellate brief that contains all of the evidence, regulatory and federal codes, case law, and any other information that we find appropriate and will effectively demonstrate that the allegations charged against you are inaccurate.

Phase 3 – Judicial Appeal

In the event that the USDA still does not overturn its decision the next legal step is to file a Judicial Review that happens in the local Federal District Court.

This involves conducting discovery, filing motions and having an actual trial before the Honorable Judge. Our attorneys are well versed in this phase and have a successful track record of handling numerous such cases in the past. Please give our lawyers a call to get more details and enlist us to handle your case.



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