One of the basic necessities that all people need access to on a daily basis is food. Unfortunately, due to a variety of different circumstances, many people are not able to meet ends meet and cannot afford to provide themselves or their family with food. To help individuals who are struggling, there is a national and state food stamp program in place that helps nearly 25 million people on an annual basis.
In the majority of situations, the food stamp program is used to help provide people with food that they need to drive. Unfortunately, there are situations in which fraud does exist. To many law enforcement agencies, the most egregious form of fraud occurs when a retailer takes food stamps and uses them as an illegal form of currency. In these situations, the retailer will buy the food stamps from a customer at a discount to the food stamp value and then exchange them at a higher value to turn a profit.
Those that are being investigated for food stamp trafficking could be facing some very severe and significant penalties. The organizations could receive investigation and scrutiny from a variety of agencies including the USDA, FBI, and state police departments. Depending on the scope of the fraud and whether the funds that were received were used for further illegal purposes, a retailer could end up facing prison time, significant penalties, loss of license to operate their store, and the loss of privilege to accept the food stamps.
If you are being investigated for food stamp fraud, there are a number of defense strategies that can be considered. One of the main strategies is to claim that you did not complete the fraud as suspected. If the situation was isolated, it can be challenging to prove that the fraud existed. Since most of these transactions took place with cash, the evidence for an isolated incident will likely be limited to the testimony of your customer.
Another strategy that can be used to defend against food stamp fraud is to state that your rights were violated during the investigation. If you are being investigated for food stamp fraud, the investigating agencies are required to obtain warrants and other approvals in order to gather evidence. If there did not follow the proper procedures, the law enforcement agencies could end up losing the right to gather the evidence.
Since retail food stamp fraud is a very serious crime that can come with big penalties, hiring legal defense support is a necessity. Those that choose to hire an attorney that specializes in these types of case will be able to develop a good defense strategy and have better luck negotiating with prosecutors. This could help anyone improve their chances of having the charges dropped or having the ultimate penalty reduced to a more reasonable level. The lawyer will also be able to provide guidance that can be followed to stay in compliance with the law further in the coming years.
Food Stamp Fraud Trafficking – Extending “CREDIT” to Customers
Sometimes, people rely on the assistance of food stamps so that they can feed their families. Grocery stores and many other retailers that sell food that can be purchased with food stamps rely on the customers who have these benefits so that they can stay in business, especially in low-income areas. Most recipients and businesses see food stamps as a form of a cash payment, but the government sees the benefits as strictly for the purpose of purchasing food for the family instead of using the benefits to buy alcohol, toiletries, and tobacco.
There are regulations that states have to follow in order for people to receive food stamp benefits. The recipients of the benefits also have to follow strict regulations that include reporting any income changes, especially if the income amount increases, and reporting whether someone moves into or out of the home as these changes can impact the amount of the benefits received each month. One of the ways that businesses can get in trouble is to treat food stamp benefits like cash, offering credit to recipients like they would if customers had a credit or debit card. This is called food stamp trafficking. It’s also classified as food stamp fraud.
Any business that takes part in trafficking could risk losing the ability to accept food stamps from customers. If there is evidence that trafficking has taken place for a significant amount of time, then the business could be closed until the proper penalties have been satisfied. Businesses that claim that they didn’t know offering credit in exchange for food stamps shows ignorance of the laws of the state and is often not a defense that can be used if the business is suspected of fraud.
If a business is charged with food stamp trafficking or fraud, then the best option is to seek the assistance of an attorney. Offering credit not associated with food stamp benefits usually isn’t an issue for businesses. Businesses can offer IOU options to customers who are unable to pay for all of the merchandise that they want or need. However, this is left to the discretion of the business. If a business extends credit options with a food stamp card instead of a credit or debit card or cash, then this is an illegal act. Aside from being banned from participating in the food stamp program, the owner of the business could face time in jail.
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