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Federal Food Stamp Fraud

Government assistance to help low-income individuals and families get the food that they need for a nutritionally adequate diet was traditionally run under the federal Food Stamp Program. In 2008 the federal program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but the term food stamps is still commonly used to describe the benefits provided. The SNAP program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and the benefits are distributed by state and local agencies. Since SNAP is a federal program the fraudulent acquisition or use of SNAP benefits can lead to very serious federal charges.

What Constitutes Food Stamp Fraud?

The United States Department of Agriculture defines three scenarios that it considers to be SNAP fraud:

  • Exchanging SNAP benefits for cash, which the agency calls trafficking.
  • Lying on a SNAP application in order to get benefits or to get more benefits than someone is supposed to get.
  • When a retailer has been disqualified from the program for past abuse and lies on an application to get into the program again.

    The criminal offenses for food stamp fraud are covered by 7 U.S. Code §2024 and makes it a crime to knowingly use, transfer, acquire, alter or possess benefits in a manner contrary to the SNAP program. The federal law also makes it a crime to knowingly present SNAP benefits for payment or redemption when those benefits have been received, transferred or used in violation of the SNAP program.

    The Penalties for Food Stamp Fraud

    If you find yourself facing federal food stamp fraud charges, the possible penalties are severe. Most federal food stamp fraud charges are considered felonies, and any offense carries the possibility of jail time, heavy fines, suspension from participation in the SNAP program and the forfeiture of property that was used or obtained in commission of the crime. The severity of the charges are based on the value of the benefits involved and are outlined below.

    For the knowing use, transfer, acquisition, alteration or possession of illegal SNAP benefits:

    • Value of $5,000 or more: The crime is considered a felony, with a fine of up to $250,000 and a possible prison term of up to 20 years.
    • Value of at least $100 but less than $5,000: The crime is considered a felony, with a fine of up to $10,000 and a possible prison term of up to 5 years. Any subsequent conviction carries a mandatory prison term of at least six months.
    • Value of less than $100: The crime is considered a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $1,000 and a possible prison term of up to 1 year. Any subsequent conviction carries a mandatory prison term of not more than one year.

    For the knowing presentation for payment or redemption of SNAP benefits that have been illegally received, transferred, or used:

    • Value of more than $100: The crime is considered a felony, with a fine of up to $20,000 and a possible prison term of up to 5 years. Any subsequent conviction carries a mandatory prison term of at least one year.
    • Value of less than $100: The crime is considered a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $1,000 and a possible prison term of up to 1 year. Any subsequent conviction carries a mandatory prison term of not more than one year.

    Federal Enforcement of Food Stamp Fraud

    The SNAP program provides benefits for nearly 45 million people in the United States and over 1.6 million of the beneficiaries live in Ohio. With so many people receiving benefits, the United States puts a strong emphasis on detecting and prosecuting food stamp fraud. Now that benefits are distributed using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) instead of physical food stamps the United State Department of Agriculture uses the electronic data to identify food stamp trafficking and other suspicious activity. When fraud is detected the federal government takes action, with SNAP investigations leading to 342 convictions in 2012.

    Let an Ohio Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Help

    If you are facing federal SNAP fraud charges the penalties involved are very serious. Not only do you face fines and jail time, but you could lose access to the very food stamp program that helps you to feed yourself and your family. The Ohio federal criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling federal cases and reaching the best possible outcomes for our clients.

    Call Ohio federal crime lawyer Chase Mallory today for a free consultation. To contact him or another criminal defense attorney, call us at or email us via advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com.

  • Facing federal criminal charges? Contact us.

    If you have been charged with a federal crime, you’re probably wondering what your options are. The Ohio federal criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling these types of cases and winning optimal outcomes for our clients. Call Ohio federal crime lawyer Chase Mallory today for a free consultation. To contact him or another criminal defense attorney, call us at or email us via advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com.

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