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SNAP Violation Attorneys

Cracking Down on SNAP Violations: The Need for Legal Representation

In 2013, Congress received a report detailing the dramatic increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) violations. Acting on this report, Congress mandated a crackdown on the stores found to be in violation, especially those trafficking. In 2014, Congress mandated the use of an ALERT system to identify, disqualify and suspend thousands of stores. Sadly, even the stores guilty of minor violations were treated as major violators. A business that accepts payments from Electronic Benefit Transfers (EBT), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and Women and Infant Care (WIC) food stamps are under the risk of falling into noncompliance. This can lead to gross sales losses, and most businesses are not able to recover.

Whether you are facing a minor or major snap violation, it is in your best interest to arm yourself with an experienced snap violation attorney. Convenience stores and small grocers heavily rely on the revenue from these transactions to remain afloat. Legal representation is therefore crucial because a violation charge could mean the closure of your business. To appreciate the need for a snap violation attorney, you need to be aware of the penalties you stand to face for a violation.

Snap Violation Penalties

The Unites States Department of Agriculture can enforce the following penalties:

  • A civil fine
  • Temporary disqualification
  • Permanent disqualification

These penalties are designed to affect your ability to conduct business and to keep your stores open. A temporary and permanent SNAP disqualification can have a huge impact on your revenue. A civil fine could mean parting with thousands of dollars. This can result in business closure, especially for grocery stores and convenience stores. While it is rare, it not unusual to face criminal charges for a snap violation. This will depend on the scope of the trafficking allegations. When so much is at stake, retaining a lawyer to help you defend yourself can have a huge impact on the outcome of your case.

Civil Fine Penalty

The Federal Regulations Code authorizes the USDA to enforce a civil fine against any food stamp trafficking. The amount of civil fine will depend on the volume of EBT transactions, the gravity of the allegations against you, and the number of offenses you have violated as a business. The relief with a civil fine is that you can still continue to operate as a business. While your revenue will be affected, you can still keep your doors open. The USDA will enforce a civil fine if the store has a compliance program in place. In the absence of a compliance program, a business can face temporary or permanent disqualification.

Temporary Disqualification

A temporary disqualification is damaging to a business. The extent of the damage depends on your cash status and the period of disqualification. The USDA is mandated by the Federal Regulations Code to issue temporary disqualifications ranging from 6 months to 5 years. The disqualification period will be pegged on the evidence brought against your business. If you had a prior violation, then the USDA will grant a longer period. With a good defense, you can cut down this disqualification time. Resuming business after several years could mean that you start from scratch.

Permanent Disqualification

A permanent disqualification could be the end of your business. Retailers and store owners get most of their revenue from EBT customers. In most cases, these customers account for over 70 percent of the total customers. Failure to comply with the snap and food stamp regulations can lead to permanent disqualification. There are several circumstances and offenses that can lead to a permanent disqualification:

Christine Twomey
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  • You or your employees knowingly engaged in EBT trafficking. This is defined as selling, buying, stealing or exchanging the snap benefits. The exchange can be done in the form of cash or other ineligible items or favors.
  • Knowingly submitting false information to the snap programs during applications or other instances when you are asked to provide information.

Measures to Prevent SNAP Violations

As is evident, stores and grocery shops stand to lose a lot after a snap violation. It is therefore imperative that stores remain compliant and take active measures to prevent violations. The following practices can help you remain on the right side of the law:

Written Guidelines

When investigation and prosecuting violations, the USDA will consider if the business had any written guidelines. These guidelines are to guide the employees. An attorney can help you draft these guidelines with respect to the statutory factors that need to be included. The guidelines also detail the products that qualify for different programs and the actions that should be taken during the transactions. The employees are expected to go through this policy document and provide a signature to show compliance.


Snap regulations are subject to regular changes as Congress deems fit. As such, the employee training is crucial if businesses are to remain compliant. The training programs should present different case scenarios and the expected actions. An understanding of the different food programs is also important for all employees. The training should be well supervised by the management to ensure that every employee attends all the training sessions. It is also important for the trainers to respond to the different questions that the employees may have. Refresher training programs can be scheduled regularly to keep the employees on the right track.

Store Organization

It is important for stores to implement tracking systems for WIC, Food Stamps, and EBT. This can help to identify potential and existing problems before they catch the attention of the USDA. One of the best preventive measures is to have a Point of Sale System that updates each of the transactions. The system should also flag the items that do not qualify under certain programs. Investing in such a software system can go a long way in identifying and correcting errors that could result in violations.

An understanding of SNAP fraud can help you avoid violations that could result in loss of revenue. To safeguard the future of your business, consult with a snap violation attorney if you are facing a violation charge.

SNAP Violation Attorney

There are a few ways an individual can be charged with SNAP fraud. Committing fraud with SNAP benefits is a serious offense and carries consequences of which many people may not be aware. Looking at the kinds of fraud related to SNAP benefits and the penalties indicates that hiring an experienced lawyer may be the best option for those facing these kinds of charges.

What is snap Fraud?
As mentioned above, there are a number of ways people use their SNAP benefits to commit fraud. One popular method is by trafficking their allowed benefits, or selling them for cash. Additionally, fraud is committed by those who lie on their initial application, either to qualify for benefits or to receive more benefits than they should be granted.

Better managing of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in recent years has reduced the incidences of trafficking, protecting the investments of both taxpayers and the federal government. The goal in this crackdown is to ensure that the families with the greatest need are the ones receiving snap benefits, as opposed to those prone to abusing the system. The USDA accomplishes this by monitoring snap purchases and seeking out suspicious activity. From there, the USDA initiates undercover investigations, working with other government agencies to uncover individuals committing snap fraud.
Individuals aren’t the only ones committing snap fraud. Some less reputable retailers, who may have been disqualified from participating in the program, may lie on a new application to become eligible again. These retailers are guilty of abusing the program for their own financial gain and are likely reapplying to commit the same deceptions again.

As of 2012, a review of 15,000 stores and 4,500 criminal investigations resulted in penalties for 1,400 stores. Business owners of these establishments were found to have been committing fraudulent acts, which disqualified them from participating in the program. Many business owners were also fined for engaging in snap fraud schemes. In addition to fraud, over 700 stores were fined for allowing snap customers to buy unsanctioned items. In 2012 alone, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General obtained 342 convictions for snap violations, sending many defendants to prison for terms of several years each.

The 5 Most Common SNAP Violations

1. Trafficking – This violation carries the stiffest penalties, because of the nature of the fraud. This is a deliberately criminal act in which the individual is selling, or trafficking, their allowed benefits. Penalties include a permanent disqualification and fines up to $100,000 for each violation.

2. Selling Firearms, Weapons, and Controlled Substances – Directed at the seller, this carries an equally stiff penalty. It often also results in the same penalty as trafficking, including the $100,000 fine for each violation. Selling three guns, for example, would result in a $300,000 fine in addition to permanent disqualification.

3. Selling Tobacco Products, Alcohol, and Other Non-Food Items – Committing this violation carries a less severe penalty and offers the court a choice in how the business is penalized. There’s either a 3 to 5 year disqualification from participating in the snap program, or a fine, commonly known as a civil money penalty. The fine is considered in cases where the disqualification would pose a hardship for snap recipients in the neighborhood.

4. Selling Common Ineligible Items – These purchases include toiletries and paper goods, junk food, and other non-food items. Many places don’t have an automated system for separating eligible and restricted items, leaving it up to the customer and the cashier to ensure proper use of the EBT card. This violation isn’t always intentional, but it still carries penalties, including a 6-month to a 3-year suspension from participating in the program. Again, a civil money penalty can be established in place of the disqualification.

5. Unauthorized Use of the EBT Card – There are a number of ways this is done. Entering the customer’s PIN at the point of sale, storing the EBT card information for future use, or accepting snap benefits for an earlier transaction are all restricted actions and committing these acts carry penalties. The EBT card must be present to run any transaction.

While there are some violations that can be committed through happenstance, most fraud is the result of an intentional act. If you have received notification that your snap participation has been suspended or revoked, an experienced lawyer may be able to help.

SNAP Violation Attorney

Many Americans are unable to afford all the food they need. American government officials recognize this fact. They are well aware that families all over the United States struggle with food bills each week. That is why the federal government has created many programs intended to address this fact. These programs offer all participants the ability to receive a certain sum of money each month. The funds are intended to be spent on food. Recipients may choose from varied types of food including fruit, vegetables, meat and legumes. The program known as SNAP is intended to allow recipients to purchase additional food they deem right for their personal needs.

The program is only intended for use to buy food. Recipients are forbidden from purchasing other items such as toiletries, tobacco, guns, alcohol and monthly menstrual products. Retailers can choose to participate in this program of their own volition. In doing so, they must be willing to follow certain laws. These laws include an agreement to monitor what each recipient buys at their store. Retailers who choose to participate in the program act as the eyes and ears for the federal government. In doing so, they agree to make sure no one violates the terms of use of food stamps.

A Huge Responsibility

Accepting food stamps is a huge decision. In many instances, retailers have no choice but to agree to this process. In many parts of the country, it is very difficult for retailers to operate unless they accept payments as this what many residents use in part to pay at least part of their food bills. The retailer has to agree to undergo training and agree to train their staffers in SNAP use. These regulations can be quite complicated in scope. A retailer must be prepared to work within the terms of the program and teach all of their employees how to respond to the requirements. For example, a retailer must make sure that all of their employees know precisely what is allowed for purchase and what is not. This can be tricky. Regulations governing food stamp use are often updated. What is allowed one month may not be allowed the very next. Keeping up with all such regulations is one of many requirements imposed on retailers and all of their employees. A retailer must be prepared to step up to the plate and make sure they and their employees are in compliance.

Potential Violations

It is very easy to make minor mistakes when administering the program each day. Violations of any part of the SNAP program are considered very serious. A program official will send out a form known as a charge letter if there any suspected violations. This letter details the scope of the charges. For example, a retailer may be accused of having allowed a recipient to buy things that are not allowed by the program. That can include plastic items intended for a party. The person may have paid in cash for some items but used food stamps to pay for certain others. All retailers who agree to work with this program must be fully aware of what can be purchased with SNAP cards and what is not allowed. They need to stay on top of things when they are open.

Other violations of SNAP can also be an issue. A retailer may be accused of having redeemed SNAP benefits without having sold items. For example, the records can show that they redeemed lots of SNAP payments in a single quarter but those records do not match the goods they ordered overall. It is important to keep in mind the federal government monitors all SNAP payments very closely. They see what is spent. They also see what the retailer is selling. A retailer may have sold items such as tobacco to someone in turn for food stamps. The use of products such as tobacco and firearms are very heavily regulated. Retailers must be in a position to refuse to accept food stamp payments for items that are not allowed under the terms of use set up by the federal government.

Responding to Charges

It is important to respond to any SNAP violations as soon as they are made. Any retailer who is found guilty of violating the laws that govern such use faces all kinds of serious penalties. A retailer may be fined thousands of dollars because they sold tobacco in return for food stamps. They can also face the possibility of losing their ability to accept food stamps at their store completely. The charges are considered long term. If you cannot must a defense, you might be excluded from the program entirely. That is why a rigorous defense is a must in such instances. The right attorney can help any retailer respond in writing and act as their representative as any case continues. Honest mistakes are common. The rules can be quite complicated and not always clear. An employee can make a mistake because they misunderstood the tenets of the regulations and the overall wording of certain regulations.

A SNAP violation attorney will respond in writing to the details in the charge letter. The lawyer can also help you come up with a list of the regulations you’ve followed and how they were implemented in your store. For example, they can show that signs were posted in the right place. They can also help you indicate that you engaged in all necessary training for your employees and offered them access to regulations they could examine during the course of their shift at your workplace. That kind of counsel can ultimately make a difference and keep you in business.

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