SNAP Disqualification of a Grocery Store
The store owner of a large Asian grocery store in Minnesota was proud of how she had grown her company. Since the 1990’s, her grocery store had moved from a 3,000 square foot space into a 20,000 square foot commercial building. The store boasted nearly a hundred employees and four specialty departments. Its customers drove from all over town to purchase imported foods and specially prepared meats. It had never had a problem with SNAP disqualification, nor had it ever been in any trouble.
Most of the grocery store’s customers were immigrant families who were Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. As a result, the store accepted SNAP and EBT payments, which were run through digital point-of-sale registers. In all, the store was well maintained and run.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP Violation
As with many grocery stores that offer ethnic foods to under-served communities, this grocery store was reliant upon its sales to SNAP participants. Without the regular monthly EBT transactions, the store would struggle to make ends meet. Accordingly, when the store received a SNAP Violation Charge Letter from the USDA, the store owner became immediately concerned about the long term viability of her store. Her biggest investment and most significant asset was threatened with a permanent disqualification from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and she had only ten days to respond.
Specifically, the USDA alleged that it had found the supermarket trafficking in SNAP benefits:
- On March 25th, a store manager completed a transaction in which $696.70 in SNAP benefits was accepted in exchange for $400.00 in cash;
- On February 5th, a store manager completed a transaction in which $625.79 in SNAP benefits were accepted in exchange for $300.00 in cash; and
- On December 4th, a store manager completed a transaction in which $169.97 in SNAP benefits was accepted in exchange for $100.00 in cash.
Trafficking in SNAP benefits is a significant violation under the SNAP regulations. Also called “food stamp trafficking,” this type of violation involves accepting SNAP benefits in exchange for cash, either directly or indirectly. This type of SNAP violation carries a permanent disqualification for the retailer.
After consulting with her Certified Public Accountant, the store owner contacted Metropolitan Law Group SNAP Violation Attorney, Mr. Andrew Tapp. Through several conversations, Mr. Tapp was able to advise the store owner of her rights, her options and what the best course of action was. The store owner then retained Mr. Tapp to handle the matter personally.
SNAP Disqualification Attorney Representation
With the benefit of his experience with the USDA, Mr. Tapp and Metropolitan Law Group set out to immediately collect the data and information from the store that he knew would be necessary for the store’s defense. Every day over the course of a week, Mr. Tapp and his paralegal built a case to address each and every issue that the USDA was concerned with.
On the tenth day, Mr. Tapp sent an eighty-five (85) page brief to the USDA in support of his client’s position that no trafficking had occurred. The brief contained specific case law that Mr. Tapp had personally been involved in, and a variety of legal and factual arguments targeted to the USDA’s standards of review.
Dismissal of SNAP Trafficking Charges
The USDA took nearly a month to review the store’s Answer Brief that was prepared by SNAP disqualification attorney Tapp. Finally, in September the Department issued a new letter to the store in which it indicated that the charges would be dropped, and the matter would be closed. Accordingly, the store’s business went uninterrupted and the matter was quickly resolved. Metropolitan Law Group can help your store, just as it did with this grocer. Our firm represents convenience stores, supermarkets, and specialty grocers across the country.
Are you facing a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program charging letter? Take advantage of our free SNAP consultations and find out how we can help protect your store today.
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