As the SNAP program conducted by the federal government has been used by more individuals over the past decade or so, many retail stores have joined with the government to accept these benefits and payments at their stores. While most merchants who participate in the SNAP program are honest and play by the rules, some choose to bend or break the rules along the way. One of the most common ways this is done is by extending credit to SNAP customers, which is illegal and considered to be an act of fraud on the part of the merchant. If you are a merchant who is being accused by the federal government of food stamp fraud and trafficking, be prepared for a long legal fight that will put your personal and professional reputations on the line. To give yourself the best chance of winning a case such as this, choose to immediately hire the services of skilled food stamp fraud and trafficking attorneys.
Why is this Illegal?
While it may sound as if extending credit to customers should be at the discretion of the merchant, it is in fact illegal when it comes to SNAP benefits. When this is done, not only can customers use their SNAP benefits for purchases other than those for which they are intended, but retailers may also be able to enter information into cash registers that appears to show transactions that did not take place. However, since all SNAP and EBT data entered into these systems is carefully tracked by the USDA, it is usually not very long before investigations are launched into what are perceived to be unusual transaction patterns. When this happens, investigators often do not stop until a conviction is handed down by the court. To keep this from happening, rely on the services of food stamp trafficking attorneys who do everything possible to protect your business and reputation. You cannot be selling dry red wine, or recycler bongs
How Fraud Takes Place
In these situations, fraud can take place in various ways. When customers enter a store and make a purchase, a smaller retailer can simply manipulate their EBT system on their cash register to enter various codes that make it appear as if a certain amount of money has been used for a purchase. In other situations, benefits are exchanged for cash or credit, which also is considered to be an extremely serious act of fraud. Due to the complexities that are involved with the amount of fraud that has taken place over the past 20 years, many merchants who were in the past disqualified from the SNAP program by the federal government have been able to complete new applications that misrepresent key facts, thus allowing them to resume their illegal practices.
When the USDA determines your store may be involved in SNAP trafficking and the extension of credit to customers, it will immediately instigate a multi-faceted investigation. Along with examining detailed electronic records obtained from the EBT Retailer Transactions System, the agency will also likely use undercover investigators that visit your store and attempt to confuse you and thus have you commit acts that may be viewed as fraudulent under current federal law. Unfortunately, it will take only one mistake on your part for the situation to quickly unravel. Rather than let yourself be accused of extending credit to customers and thus committing food stamp fraud and trafficking, put experienced food stamp trafficking attorneys to work for you and your business as quickly as possible.
If the USDA suspects you of extending credit to SNAP customers, you may one day find a letter in the mail detailing the charges and violations connected to you and your store. In this letter, you may find page after page listing the transactions in question, which will of course have you shaken and upset. However, whether or not you are guilty of the charges made against you, your goal should be to fight the charges as much as possible. Since you will have only 10 days to respond to this letter, time will be of the essence. Otherwise, the USDA will probably suspend the ability of your store to accept EBT, and may in fact temporarily suspend your store’s license. Rather than let your business be destroyed by allegations that may not even be true, let skilled food stamp trafficking attorneys put their knowledge and expertise to work for you in an effort to resolve the situation.
Filing a Judicial Review
Once the USDA begins this process, you will be dealing with many hearings and other legal matters. As a first step, the USDA will usually conduct an administrative review of the charges against you, and will likely find you guilty and suspend your license. Since you have the right to appeal this decision, you should do so immediately, since you are only given 10 days to do so. If this appeal is denied, you should work with your attorneys to file a judicial review in U.S. District Court. Due to these reviews being heard only by a judge and not a jury, you will need lawyers who are able to successfully argue cases in court.
Rather than face the prospect of losing your business as well as large fines and possibly prison, consult at once with knowledgeable food stamp trafficking attorneys who understand your case and will fight hard to protect your legal rights each step of the way.