What is a SNAP Civil Money Penalty
SNAP Civil Money Penalty
Anyone who runs a supermarket or other place where people can buy food should know what forms of payment they are going to accept. Some store owners may choose to accept payments in the form of cash or credit only. Another option is SNAP. This program is a form of payment authorized by the federal government. It is intended to make sure that Americans have what it takes to put food on the table. A store owner can decide to opt into this program. If they make the choice to accept SNAP payments from clients, they should be prepared to ensure that the rules governing the use of this program are in place. If there are problems with SNAP use, the store can fall sorts of problems. A store owner can be fined or even forbidden from ever accepting SNAP payments again.
Issues With SNAP Use
All sorts of issues can arise when it comes to SNAP payments. For example, an employee may accidentally ring up something that cannot be purchased under the rules of this program. The employee may also ring up the wrong amount of SNAP payment again by accident. An employer may not be aware of changing regulations. This can lead to problems such as allowing users to buy things that are now longer allowed under the program. Such occurrences can earn the notice of those entrusted with enforcing SNAP regulations. If problems with SNAP use happen again and again, the store owner can find themselves facing all sort of serious issues.
For example, a store owner who has sold firearms in return for SNAP payments may find themselves facing fines up to $100,000. The same is true of those who sell substances such as alcohol and tobacco. Violations of this sort can lead to the employer’s being suspended from the program for up five years. If the store owner is found to be in violation of SNAP regulations multiple times, they can be permanently disbarred from accepting any SNAP payments ever again. That can lead to huge losses to their competitors and a major disadvantage for any store owner operating in an economically disadvantaged area.
One Potential Penalty
If a store owner is found to be in violation of a SNAP policy, there is a way to avoid problems. The store owner can opt for what is known as a CMP or Civil Money Penalty. The CMP is a means whereby the store owner can admit that infractions of SNAP regulations have taken place in his store. At the same time, the penalty is also acknowledges that such violations were not their fault. This penalty was devised by Congress in order to help stores stay in business. The assesses penalty cannot be more than $59,000. It is based on the amount of violations that have taken place and deemed a percentage of sales. The store owner can agree to this penalty in order to avoid being disqualified from the program for a period of time or even forever.
It is important to keep in mind that not all store owners can qualify for this penalty. The CMP is a desirable outcome. An acceptance means that the store owner is prepared to make sure such violations do not happen again on their watch. It is also crucial to be aware of the requirements to qualify for this program. They are highly specific. SNAP officials will make a determination if the person qualifies for admission based on certain factors. Anyone who is applying for this program can expect an examination of all of their store’s records in great detail.
Qualifying For a Civil Money Penalty
The CMP is a possibility if the store owner can demonstrate they have kept very good records. These records should indicate all SNAP purchases. That includes when they were made and what was purchased by the SNAP recipient. Many store owners who opt to use the SNAP program find it helpful to install a system that is designed to create a detailed record of what was purchased and when. Known as a POS or point of sale system, it can be programmed to examine each SNAP purchase and determine if such a purchase is legally allowed. That is one tool that each store owner can use to help their employees make judgements about SNAP use.
Any store owner who wants to be part of this program should also be prepared to demonstrate they have engaged in efforts to ensure that the store owner or manager was adhering to all necessary regulations before they were accused of violating SNAP regulations. The owner must able to show they have all SNAP regulations in place and visible to the employees as they work. They also need to show that they have trained all employees about how to work with the program. This also includes providing evidence that employees were trained in SNAP use before they started the job. Evidence of a written training program is required in order to show that the store owner was in compliance with SNAP regulations and ready to convey these facts to all of their employees.
An owner who is prepared to meet these conditions can apply to pay the fine. They also need to illustrate that any SNAP violation did not benefit them personally or financially. This program allows the store owner to have a means of moving on from a minor problem with SNAP use at their site. All store owners should consider this a warning. If there is a problem with misuse of SNAP in the future, this can create issues that may lead them be denied further access to the program.
SNAP Violation Lawyers
The most heinous crime an EBT retailer can face consequences for is undoubtedly SNAP Benefits Trafficking. That fact notwithstanding, it’s the most consistently charged SNAP violation by the USDA. Accusations of trafficking in SNAP benefits at your place of business can mean stiff and speedy sanctions against you, with a high probability of being subject to criminal charges. Be advised: accusations of trafficking are far bigger than mere claims that you or workers at your grocery store incorrectly processed an EBT transaction with one of your customers.
Trafficking crimes are characterized by any use of SNAP benefits in an unlawful or unauthorized exchange. Such crimes come in many various forms and the USDA’s definition touches on six different groups of practices that are classified as trafficking:
- Buying or selling an EBT card or a card account and/or PIN number for money or other items, or stealing a card;
- Exchanging guns, drugs, ammunition, or explosives using EBT cards or SNAP benefits;
- Buying bottle refund beverages, dumping the contents and then exchanging the bottles for the refunds;
- Making qualifying purchases using SNAP benefits and reselling said products for cash;
- SNAP recipients who purchase items with their EBT cards and then swap those items for cash or credit at a SNAP licenced retailer are engaging in trafficking.
- Dispensing “cash back” on EBT card purchases (considered a criminal act whether or not the store owner or any of the managers or staff members extract financial gain from the dispensation).
Clarifying Whether You Are Facing Trafficking Charges
The USDA has three ways of notifying the owners of licensed stores of a trafficking charge. All three involve the formality of a charge letter. This “Charge Letter” is dispatched to your place of business through UPS overnight from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). It lays out in detail the particular allegations that the USDA is bringing against you. The most commonly occuring SNAP trafficking charge is referred to as an “EBT” case. EBT stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer. This version of the crime of trafficking is a data analysis case. Here’s an example of a Charge Letter:
SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter
The charge letter you will get shows you the transaction pattern categories that put the USDA on alert and lead them to their conclusion that you committed a SNAP trafficking violation. A number of Exhibits with showing groups of transactions are customarily attached to the letter. Department agents have been known to testify in many of these cases that they were off the opinion that the violators were disbursing “cash back” in EBT transactions and so they were guilty of trafficking. Our SNAP Violation Lawyers can explain everything you will need to know about dealing with an EBT SNAP trafficking charge letter. In any event, your best chances of defeating the charges against you in such matters almost invariably involves SNAP Violation Lawyers stepping in to handle your defense.
Another family of trafficking charges comes out of the RIB – Retailer Investigations Branch. This kind of letter shows up as a result of an undercover agent from the USDA having visited your store disguised as a secret shopper. These RIB letters usually include an affidavit that looks like this:
Undercover agent affidavit
Secret shopper matters are much more likely to be built around minuscule details than the EBT cases. In the absence of a specialist SNAP Violation Lawyers, your chances of presenting a strong defense that will win are slim to none. The specialist SNAP Violation lawyers at our firm are at your disposal for a free consultation. In the event that a letter with an undercover agent affidavit comes in the mail, call or email us right away.
The final one of the charge letters is the kind that is dispatched as the culmination of an Office of Inspector General investigation. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) undertakes undercover investigations as well, but they customarily conduct this particular kind of investigation with the express purpose of pursuing criminal charges.
Here’s what an OIG letter looks like:
OIG charge letter
Upon receiving any of these three types of charge letters, be aware that you are now officially subject to a criminal investigation, even though they may never result in criminal charges against the grocery store or it’s proprietor. We strongly recommend that you refrain from attempting to do battle in such cases on your own accord. Be wise and take advantage of our risk-free consultation. We specialize in assisting store owners in avoiding common missteps and costly errors.
A SNAP Trafficking Charge Letter Showed Up – What Next?
The rigors of a SNAP trafficking matter are taxing indeed. Because of the potentially ruinous impact they can have on the future of your store, it is imperative that you defend yourself against whatever trafficking allegations the USDA brought against you. Our SNAP Violation Guidebook is available to you. In it, you will learn the procedures of trafficking cases and what you can expect when you hire our firm to represent you.
The first steps are generally the most critical ones in the whole procedure. In light of this fact, take a look at our quick guide to so you can get an understanding of what your SNAP Violation Lawyer is going to require from you to proceed:
- Inventory receipts , including all invoices and receipts for the stock you have purchased.
- All records that show the items that were purchased in the relevant transactions.
- Business tax returns and records (like sales tax and 1040’s) can be useful.
- Your store’s profit and loss statements can also help.
In conclusion, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of retaining an SNAP Violation Lawyers who is an expert in SNAP law involved in such cases. Our firm has a lengthy and impressive track record and is reputed for being highly proficient as a SNAP Trafficking specialist. We boast the biggest repository of expertise on the body of legislation that covers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at our law firm. USDA agents know our SNAP Violation Lawyers well. What firm you choose to hire for your trafficking case will indeed make a difference in the results you get. Make your next move your best move. Don’t go for a stall-and-delay plan of action: strategize the case to triumph in the case.
Violations on SNAP and EBT Card Use
Violations on SNAP and EBT Card Use
The government department that keeps watch over the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS). The FNS deals with all matters connected to grocery store licensing and SNAP violation enforcement. Oftentimes, EBT Violation charges are sought against business owners by the FNS via a letter. All their violations and decision letters go out from their offices through UPS overnight delivery. Ifi it so happens that you get such a letter at your place of business, you have just ten (10) days from the date of its arrival to respond to it. If you neglect to respond, this could get you a permanent disqualification of your SNAP privileges and the end of a vital income source.
All SNAP benefits fraud letters that are dispatched by FNS will contain a list of allegations of different categories of SNAP violations. These include:
- Selling unqualified products;
- Using EBT benefits to pay credit;
- Trafficking in SNAP benefits; and
- Reciprocal disqualifications from WIC.
A charge letter from the FNS customarily includes language saying that FNS “has compiled evidence that your firm has violated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations.” You can read more about the SNAP violation statues here.
Know the Numbers: 90% of Stores that Fight Without a Lawyer get Disqualified.
Major SNAP Violation: Benefits Trafficking
There is one category of crimes that rank as of most egregious SNAP violations that can come in a SNAP charge letter. That category is SNAP Benefits Trafficking. A blanket definition of trafficking is an exchange of cash for EBT benefits. This could be conducted in various types of transactions, including disbursing cash back on a SNAP purchase or the sale or purchase of an EBT card. Fairly recently, fraud investigations for trafficking began to shine a bright light on retailer purchases of inventory that was bought first using benefits funds. This also comes under the category of trafficking and regularly gets retailers permanently disqualified.
Trafficking charges can follow the discovery of two different versions of documented proof:
- Transaction pattern/categories or
- Eye witnesses affidavits .
Often, SNAP violation charges are based on a statistical analysis. In general, this language can be found in USDA letters:
“Analysis of the records reveal Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) transactions that establish clear and repetitive patterns of unusual, irregular, and inexplicable activity for your type of firm.” A charge letter shows up accompanied by a set of attachments detailing all the transactions in each category. The categories include:
Multiple Transactions from the Same Household
“In a series of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT transactions, multiple transactions were made from the accounts of individual SNAP households within a set time period.” For the USDA, this questionable pattern leads them to the conclusion that a SNAP violation occurred in connection to the frequency of purchases from the same household. By and large, the USDA is of the belief that it is abnormal for a head of household to shop repeatedly in a small store over the course of a short time frame.
Multiple Transactions in a Short Time
“In a series of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program EBT transactions, multiple purchase transactions were made within a set time period.” In this category are clusters of transactions occurring from different households over a limited amount of time that can appear dubious. In short, the USDA may think that this is a red flag that a SNAP violation has taken place as there is no viable cause for how your registers are able to complete transactions so rapidly.
Depletion of Household Benefits
“In a series of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT transactions, the bulk of SNAP households’ remaining benefits were depleted within short time frames.” Such a group of transactions examines the percentage of a cardholder’s total benefit funds are spent at your checkout counters, and when an EBT card balance is zeroed out in their transactions at your place of business, this raises a flag.
Repeated Dollar Values
What used to be known as “same-cent transactions”, transactions in this category have been recently revised. “In a series of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT transactions, there were a large number of transactions in repeated dollar values.” When they examine the amounts of your transactions, the USDA can lead to the belief that you or one of your staff members has committed a SNAP violation. In actuality, such transaction patterns often wind up being nothing more than an indication of how your store does business, but the USDA would have any first hand knowledge of this.
“In a series of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT transactions, your store conducted EBT transactions that are large based on the observed store characteristics and recorded food stock.” This category, previously known as “excessively large transactions,” is characterized by a list of transactions that get attention because they are uncharacteristically high dollar amounts. Incredulously, this group can include purchases that were flagged for as low as $30 or less.
In this category, which is pretty rare in SNAP violation cases these days, lies a selection of transactions that were executed at your store where rather than swiping, the EBT card number was manually entered. This brings the USDA to the conclusion that if the number was manually entered, then it is possible, if not certain, that the EBT card was not physically present at the time of purchase and that the transaction could possibly have been a SNAP violation.
Handling your SNAP Violation Letter
Snap Violation cases are very serious matters. Although the letter you get may look as though it is just routine communication, it is your indication that the USDA is targeting you to disqualify your business. You could get jammed up with a term disqualification, or under the most extreme circumstances, a permanent disqualification. Calling up the program specialist is a choice you can make, but before you make that call, please read our Guide on What Not to Say to the USDA. You can find out from them what information they require, but they will probably in turn demand that you “submit any information that you think might help explain those transaction patterns.” You should know that the specialist will withhold the information that there is a very specific set of documents and responses that you are obligated to submit, and if you don’t get those in, then you will lose your case.
Our attorneys have worked for many years of SNAP violation defense cases. This breadth and depth of experience gives us an advantage over other firms. We have completed dozens of depositions of USDA agents, section chiefs, investigators and program specialists. This being the case, we can prepare effectively to handle the questions the Department has about your grocery store. We can sort through all the details to assist you in figuring out what is helpful, what may be harmful, and how to put up the strongest possible case for your licence. Our SNAP violation defense process is the most effective in the field. We are quite pleased to be considered as an authority in matters all the way from administrative actions to cases before the United States Supreme Court.
Move quickly! The later you delay in putting a professional on your team, the more of an difficult journey it is to get a positive outcome in your case. You can receive a free consultation every day of the week (including weekends). To start the process, complete the form below or reachout to us on our toll free number.
USDA SNAP Penalties For Retailers
Retail is an important sector of the economy. People rely on retailers for access to the goods they need in life. Becoming a retailer can be deeply satisfying work. Of particular important to many people and communities are stores that provide access to food and other basic goods such as toiletries. These are things that people need to function.
One of the important things that any retailer needs to keep in mind as they operate each day are the forms of payment they are going to accept from customers. Over time, the American government has provided safety nets for the American people. One such safety net is what is known as SNAP. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is designed to make sure that every recipient can access the food they need to meet certain caloric requirements. SNAP is a widely used government program. Any retailer who agrees to accept this form of payment should be aware of the rules that govern it. Such regulations can be complicated and hard to understand. Violations may happen. All retailers should know what kind of SNAP penalties exist if such rules are violated. They also need to know the long term consequences of such violations.
If there is an issue, the first thing that will happen is you’ll get a letter. This letter is a detailed list of any violations you have been accused of when it comes to accepting the SNAP program. The typical letter has a cover letter followed by a list of any violations that the government asserts has happened during your acceptance of SNAP users. The letter is usually quite specific. There will be a list of dates and times when the violations are alleged to have taken place. The letter will also indicate the scope of the violations including which rules the retailer has broken.
The letter is a very serious matter. It deserves immediate attention. Bear in mind that you have less than two weeks to respond to the contents. If you don’t respond in ten days, government officials will take action. That may include a temporary suspension of your ability to accept SNAP payments as well as the potential to be dropped from the program entirely. Store owners who do not respond are presumed guilty of the violations set forth in the letter. Any penalties government officials want to impose will be imposed at the end of this ten day period.
All retailers should understand what penalties they might face if they are in violation of SNAP rules. These penalties vary depending on the violation in question. For example, anyone who has bought or sold SNAP benefits of any kind in return for cash or other any other items can face permanent disqualification from the entire program. They can also face problems such forfeiture of the property they have received as a result of taking in SNAP payments. In addition, the retailer may also face fines that can be as much as a hundred thousand dollars.
Selling certain things in return for SNAP payments can also create problems for the retailer. Guns and controlled substances are looked on severely under SNAP regulations. A retailer who agrees to accept guns in return for SNAP payments may be subject to permanent disqualification from the entire program. The retailer can also be faced with huge, six figure fines.
Alcohol and tobacco sales are another example of the kind of items that are highly regulated under the SNAP program. Retailers are not allowed to accept SNAP payments for alcohol or tobacco. Retailers who are found guilty of this violation may be barred from the program for three to five years. They can also face what is known as a civil money claim as a result of selling these items in return for SNAP payments.
Other kinds of items also fall in this category. SNAP has very specific lists of items that are allowed for sale. Recipients are not allowed to purchase certain things such as prepared food and toiletries. All retailers should know this before they agree to participate in this program. They should have a list of items that are prohibited ready in a convenient place where store employees can examine it as they work.
Responding to Violations
Given the time bound nature of the SNAP violation letter, it is imperative to come up with an immediate plan to respond to any issues asserted in the letter. Keep in mind that officials can choose to take away the right to accept SNAP payments at any time. Effective counsel can help. They can help you examine the charges and see exactly what they mean. For example, you might have an employee who was unaware of the process of accepting SNAP payments and made a mistake. Another employee may have made a mistake and accidentally rung up more money. A response to such allegations can help you shake off these charges. That can also help you develop a strategy for avoiding such allegations in the future.
You have certain options. Any response should be swift. If a retailer is found guilty of violating laws, they also have the right to appeal any SNAP suspension. This is another area where quick action is vitally important. If you submit a response answering the allegations, officials may not accept your reasoning or your defense of your actions. In that case, you’ll get another letter indicating the agency’s response. You have another ten days to respond to the second letter. Having skilled counsel at your side can make a difference. They’ll help you fully respond to such allegations and navigate this deeply complicated area of law.
Is it possible to reverse a SNAP permanent disqualification?
SNAP is one of the largest public programs in the country. Many families depend on it. It gives low income families money, so they can eat. It is not glamorous, but it’s practical. The legislation regarding SNAP benefits is rigid. What can, and cannot, be sold to people using SNAP benefits, how much people receive monthly, and what recipient can, and cannot, buy – is regulated.
The SNAP laws determine this, and owners of supermarkets/grocery stores have to be equipped to handle this. You are obligated to adhere to every term.
Selling SNAP benefits for cash is forbidden by law. Recipients cannot purchase alcohol, as well as a number of other items using EBT cards. Anyone caught selling unauthorized products, exchanging SNAP for cash, face a long list of fines, penalties, and even the loss of their privileges to accept SNAP benefits.
In the event the USDA suspects you, or your employee, performed illegal acts – you’ll receive a letter. It’ll detail what was done, and what the judgement is. Accidents happen all the time, no one is perfect. If you’re found guilty, you’ll receive a letter explaining what is going to happen next.
In some cases, you might just need to pay a fine. In other situations, you may lose your ability to accept SNAP.
Losing your right to accept SNAP can be a substantial penalty.