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USDA SNAP EBT Patterns Trafficking

What Exactly is SNAP Trafficking?

Let’s start with the basics – what does the USDA even mean by “trafficking” when it comes to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps)?Trafficking is the criminal exchange of SNAP benefits for cash or non-food items. Essentially, it boils down to misusing or abusing the program.The USDA has laid out six specific types of SNAP trafficking:

  1. Buying, selling, or stealing EBT cards (or their numbers/PINs) for cash or other payment
  2. Exchanging firearms, ammunition, explosives, or drugs for SNAP benefits
  3. Purchasing items with a bottle deposit, dumping the contents, and returning the bottles for cash refunds
  4. Buying eligible food items with SNAP just to resell them for cash
  5. SNAP recipients buying food with their EBT card, then selling it to a retailer for cash/credit
  6. Retailers giving “cash back” on SNAP EBT transactions, even if they don’t directly profit

So in a nutshell, any misuse of SNAP benefits to obtain cash, drugs, weapons, or for reselling purposes counts as trafficking according to the USDA. Makes sense when you think about it – the program is meant to help feed families in need, not line pockets illegally.

How the USDA Catches SNAP Traffickers

But how does the USDA actually catch retailers engaging in SNAP trafficking? They’ve got a few sneaky tactics up their sleeves:

1) EBT Transaction Data AnalysisThis is likely how your store got flagged. The USDA has sophisticated data analytics tools that scan EBT transactions looking for patterns that could indicate trafficking.For example, if they see a bunch of:

  • Excessive manual voucher clearances
  • Multiple small-dollar transactions in a short timeframe
  • An unusual number of “even dollar” transactions (like $20 over and over)

Their systems will flag that as potential trafficking activity. From there, they’ll send you a nasty-gram charge letter complete with exhibits listing out all the “suspicious” transactions.

2) Undercover Sting OperationsSometimes the USDA will go full FBI and send undercover agents to try to catch your store red-handed. These agents may attempt to:

  • Buy ineligible items like cigarettes or alcohol with SNAP benefits
  • Ask for cash back after a SNAP purchase
  • Offer to sell you discarded bottles/cans for cash refunds

If any of your employees take the bait, that’s grounds for a trafficking charge right there. The USDA will hit you with a charge letter containing affidavits from their undercover agents detailing the whole sting operation.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Brendan huisman
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
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Taïko Beauty
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divesh patel
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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.

3) Informant TipsIn some cases, the USDA gets tipped off about potential SNAP trafficking by informants – disgruntled employees, competing retailers, you name it. If they get credible intel that your store is up to no good, they may open an investigation.No matter how they find out, one thing’s for sure – the USDA does NOT mess around when it comes to SNAP fraud. They have a zero-tolerance policy, and the penalties can be utterly devastating if you’re caught trafficking.So what exactly are those penalties? Well, let’s just say you REALLY don’t want to find out the hard way…

The Harsh Penalties for SNAP Trafficking

Okay, we’ve been building up to this, so let’s rip off the band-aid: the penalties for SNAP trafficking are no joke.At the very least, you’re looking at permanent disqualification from SNAP for your store if you’re found guilty of trafficking. That means no more EBT sales, like, ever – an absolutely crippling blow for many retailers.But it gets worse. The USDA can also:

  • Suspend your SNAP payments while investigating (financial ruin awaits)
  • Impose hefty fines and monetary penalties (we’re talking tens of thousands easily)
  • Refer your case to the USDA Office of Inspector General for criminal charges

Yep, you read that right – SNAP trafficking is considered criminal fraud, which means potential jail time is on the table if you get indicted. The USDA doesn’t mess around, folks. Even the suspicion of trafficking puts a gigantic target on your back that you really, really want to get rid of ASAP.So if you find yourself staring down SNAP trafficking charges, what’s your next move? Trying to go it alone is a terrible idea that could cost you everything.No, your best bet by far is to hire a powerhouse legal team with extensive experience battling the USDA – a team like Spodek Law Group.

Penalty Description
Permanent Disqualification Your store can never accept SNAP/EBT again
Suspension of Payments The USDA freezes all incoming SNAP funds during their investigation
Fines & Monetary Penalties You’ll owe the USDA tens of thousands of dollars
Criminal Charges You could face jail time if indicted for SNAP fraud by the OIG

Why You Need a Specialized SNAP Trafficking Lawyer

Look, we’re not here to scare you (well, maybe a little). The reality is, SNAP trafficking charges from the USDA are extremely serious with potential life-altering consequences.Trying to defend yourself pro se is just asking for failure. You need a legal team that:

  1. Understands SNAP regulations inside and out
  2. Has beaten the USDA before in trafficking cases
  3. Knows how to poke holes in the USDA’s evidence
  4. Can negotiate the best possible deal if needed

At Spodek Law Group, our team of former federal prosecutors checks all those boxes and more. We’ve been taking on the USDA for years and winning – just check out our case results.When you hire us, we’ll immediately get to work:

  • Analyzing the USDA’s evidence against you for weaknesses
  • Challenging any violations of your constitutional rights
  • Preparing an aggressive defense strategy customized for your case
  • Negotiating with the USDA to reduce or dismiss the charges if possible

Our goal? To get you the best possible outcome – whether that’s avoiding disqualification altogether, minimizing fines, or beating criminal charges.We’ve seen every trick in the USDA’s book, and we know how to counter it. More importantly, we understand what you’re going through and will fight tirelessly to protect your business, your finances, and your freedom.So if you get that dreaded USDA charge letter, don’t panic – pick up the phone and call Spodek Law Group at 212-300-5196 ASAP for a free consultation.The sooner we get started, the better your chances of emerging from this SNAP trafficking nightmare unscathed. Your livelihood is on the line – you can’t afford to go this alone.

Common SNAP Trafficking Defenses

Now, you’re probably wondering – okay, but what kind of defenses can even be raised against SNAP trafficking charges? It’s a fair question.The truth is, a lot depends on the specific nature of the USDA’s allegations and evidence against you. But in general, here are some of the most common defenses we use:

1) Challenging the Transaction Data-If the USDA’s case is built mostly on their EBT data analysis flagging “suspicious” transactions, we’ll tear that analysis to shreds. Maybe those “patterns” have innocent explanations. Or their analytics could be flawed. Either way, we know how to punch holes in their circumstantial evidence.

2) Discrediting Undercover Operatives-USDA undercover stings are far from perfect. Their agents could have misinterpreted statements from your employees or taken actions out of context. Heck, maybe they even acted in a way to intentionally provoke violations. We’ll get to the bottom of it.

3) Constitutional Violations-If the USDA overstepped its authority in any way while investigating you – conducting illegal searches, entrapping your employees, anything like that – we’ll file motions to get that tainted evidence tossed out. Your constitutional rights matter.

4) Lack of Proof/Credible Evidence-At the end of the day, the burden is on the USDA to prove you actually committed SNAP trafficking beyond a reasonable doubt. If their evidence is too weak, we’ll argue for a dismissal of charges. They’d better bring more than circumstantial transaction data if they want a conviction.

5) Plea Bargains-Sometimes, the evidence is pretty solid, and fighting tooth-and-nail just isn’t advisable. In those cases, we can negotiate with the USDA to pursue a plea bargain – like accepting lesser charges in exchange for avoiding permanent disqualification.The key is having an aggressive, strategic legal team evaluating your situation with a critical eye. We leave no stones unturned in building the strongest possible defense.And if the USDA wants to play hardball? Two can play at that game. With our extensive federal court experience, we’re ready to go to war if needed to keep you off the permanently ineligible list.

Don’t Go It Alone – Hire the Spodek Law Group

Look, we know this is a stressful, scary situation. Being accused of SNAP trafficking by the USDA can feel like a kick in the gut – especially if you truly believe you did nothing wrong.But you cannot simply ignore these charges and hope they go away. SNAP fraud is a big deal to the feds, and they WILL pursue harsh penalties if you let them.That’s why you need to lawyer up ASAP with a firm that has:

  • Extensive experience battling SNAP trafficking cases
  • A track record of winning against the USDA
  • Insider knowledge from former federal prosecutors
  • A reputation for aggressive representation

At Spodek Law Group, we check all those boxes. We’ve been through this fight before, and we know what it takes to emerge victorious.From analyzing the evidence to poking holes in the USDA’s case to negotiating for the best possible deal, we leave no stones unturned in defending our clients. Your business and your future are simply too important.So if you or your store receives a SNAP trafficking charge letter from the USDA, don’t delay – call 212-300-5196 immediately to schedule a free consultation.We’ll break down the charges, evaluate your situation, and start mapping out a defense strategy to protect everything you’ve worked so hard for. The feds may play hardball, but so do we – and we know all their tricks.

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