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Specific rules are outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations covering the proper use of food stamps or EBT Cards by food retailers. The Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) is responsible for enforcing these rules. Should a food retailer commit food stamp fraud, they will receive a Snap violation letter.
When a food retailer receives a Snap violation letter, they will have 10 days to provide a response. Should they not respond within 10 days, the food retailer may have their ability to accept EBT cards suspended or terminated. This is a time when the owner of the business should seek legal help. Experienced attorneys will know how to contact the necessary government agencies as well as FNS. Their goal will be to protect a food retailer’s ability to accept SNAP funds.
It is possible a food retailer to not know they have violated any SNAP rules. This often happens with a food retailer’s employees hide the violation of the rules from the owner. SNAP is a federal program and every state is responsible for implementing it. Specific violations are determined by the state where the food retailer is located.
By the time a food retailer has receives a SNAP violation letter, an investigation has already been started. The investigation was probably initiated by a review of a food retailers records or a complaint. Any inconsistency in a food retailer’s records automatically start an investigation.
Types of SNAP Violations
*Falsified SNAP Application – This violation involves a food retailer intentionally providing false information on their application to FNS.
*Unqualified Purchases – There are only certain items that are considered qualified purchases with an EBT Card. Food, non-alcoholic drinks, and items that are intended to be consumed at a person’s home. Unqualified purchases involve pet food, tobacco, hot food eaten in the store, tobacco, alcohol and other non-food items.
*Unqualified Purchaser – This violation happens when an employee at a food retailer accepts SNAP benefits from an individual who isn’t entitled or authorized to use them.
*Trafficking – Any fraudulent acceptance of transactions is considered trafficking. This could be classified as intentional or unintentional theft of federal benefits.
*EBT Card Benefit Exchange – This violation happens when a food retailer returns a favor to a customer using a creditor tab in exchange for the customer’s use of their EBT card.
SNAP Fraud Penalties
The authority for the enforcement of penalties associated with food stamp fraud is with the USDA. There are various penalties that can be given to a food retailer who is found guilty of violating the rules.
*Permanent disqualification from the SNAP program – This will make a food retailer unable to receive any type of revenue from EBT card transactions.
*Civil fines – They are referred to as a Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP). The amount of a fine will be determined by the number of alleged violations. The gravity of the allegations, as well as the volume of the transactions, will be taken into consideration. Should an existing compliance program be in place for the food retailer, the USDA will diligently enforce a civil fine.
*Temporary Disqualification – This can be damaging to a food retailer’s revenue. The length of the disqualification will be determined by the evidence brought against them. It could last from six months to five years.
*Suspension of access to EBT terminals. This makes a food retailer unable to process EBT transactions.
Any of these actions could result in a food retailer losing tens of thousands of dollars. It is best to work with an attorney in this situation. They will know how to negotiate with FNS.
Most penalties associated with food stamp fraud involve administrative penalties. It is possible for criminal charges could also be involved. The reason is that SNAP benefits are part of a federal government program. This makes SNAP fraud a federal crime. It is a crime that could be handled in a federal court.
A violation of SNAP can be expensive and could cause a food retailer to go out of business. This is the time to contact an experienced attorney to deal with the fraud issues. It could involve disqualifications, judicial appeals, suspensions as well as suspensions, compliance and more. They know how to guide the owner of a food retail outlet through the legal process