EBT & SNAP Violations
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is overseen by the USDA through the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS). This division is responsible for retailer licensing and SNAP violation enforcement. EBT Violation charges come from FNS in a letter delivered by UPS in overnight mail. If you have received this letter, you have ten (10) days from the date UPS delivered the letter to respond. If you don't respond, you could face permanent disqualification.
Each food stamp fraud letter sent by FNS includes allegations of different types of SNAP violations. These include (1) sale of ineligible items; (2) trafficking in SNAP benefits; (3) payment of credit with EBT benefits; and (4) reciprocal disqualifications from WIC. The charge letter from FNS typically states that FNS "has compiled evidence that your firm has violated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations." You can find the SNAP violation regulations here.
SNAP Violation: Trafficking in Benefits
The most serious of the violations that are contained in a SNAP charge letter is trafficking. Loosely defined, trafficking means an exchange of cash for EBT benefits. This could be in the form of cash back or the purchase of an EBT card. Recently, fraud investigations for trafficking have focused retailer purchases of inventory which was bought initially with benefits. This qualifies as trafficking and will result in a permanent disqualification.
Trafficking charges come with one of two types of evidence: (1) transaction patters/categories or (2) eye witness affidavits. These SNAP violation charges are often based upon a statistical analysis. The language in each of the USDA's letters is the same. "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." Each of these letters has a set of attachments containing transactions for each category. These categories include:
SNAP Violation Charge: 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." This category involves transactions occurring from multiple households over a limited amount of time. Essentially, the USDA believes that a SNAP violation is occurring because they don't understand how your store conducts transactions so quickly.
SNAP Violation Charge: 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." In this category, the USDA believes that a SNAP violation is occurring because of the frequency of purchases from the same household. Generally, the Department believes that it is unlikely for a household to make repeat visits to small stores.
SNAP Violation Charge: Repeated Dollar Values
Previously known as "same-cent transactions" this category of transaction has been recently changed. "In a series of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT transactions, there were a large number of transactions in repeated dollar values." This means that the USDA believes your store has committed a SNAP violation that is indicated by the amounts your transactions are in. Often, this is the result of how your store operates its business, but the USDA doesn't know it.
SNAP Violation Charge: Large Transactions
"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 called "excessively large transactions," contains a list of transactions that are identified as being unusually large in size. Often this list includes purchases for as little as $25 or $30.
SNAP Violation Charge: 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." This category of transactions evaluates how much of a participant's total benefits are used at your store, and typically depleted to a $0.00 in their transactions at your store.
SNAP Violation Charge: Manual Transactions
This category, which is not common in SNAP violation cases, involves a number of transactions that have occurred where the EBT card was manually entered rather than swiped. It is the USDA's belief that if the card were manually entered, it is possible, if not likely, that the card was not physically present and that the transaction was likely a SNAP violation.
Snap Violation cases are serious. Though the letter seems casual enough, it is the USDA's intention to disqualify or permanently disqualify your store. This could be a term disqualification, or a permanent disqualification. You can call the program specialist (though read our Guide on What Not to Say to the USDA) and ask what information they need, but they will tell you that you should "submit any information that you think might help explain those transaction patterns." What the Department doesn't tell you, is that there is a very specific set of documents and responses that they're looking for, and if you don't provide them, you will lose your case.
Our years of professional SNAP violation defense experience gives us an edge over other attorneys. We have conducted dozens of depositions of USDA officials, section chiefs, program specialists and investigators. As a result, our cases are tailored to meet the questions the Department has about your store. We can identify what information is helpful, what may be harmful, and how to present the strongest possible case for your store. Our SNAP violation defense process is second to none, and we are proud to be an industry leader in cases ranging from Administrative actions to matters before the United States Supreme Court.
Don't delay. The longer you wait to contact a professional, the harder it is to win your case. We offer free consultations every day of the week (including weekends). To learn more, fill out the form below or call us on our toll free number.