Alleged Violation of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? Overview of a “Charge Letter”

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Retailers who accept SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, are subject to random inspections by undercover United State Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) inspectors.  The undercover inspectors check to see if retailers are selling unauthorized items or if the retailer is involved in trafficking, which is the exchange of money for food stamps.

In the event that the undercover investigator finds a violation or multiple violations, a charge letter is sent to the retailer describing the charge(s) from the Food Nutrition Service (“FNS”) who is in charge of compliance of SNAP regulations.  The charge letter will also include a report for each transaction and violation, along with a receipt from said transaction where the violation occurred.

It is very important that this letter not be ignored by retailers because the letter provides the retailer with a chance to supply information to defend themselves against the alleged charge.  The letter provides the procedure for responding to the violations, which must be done within ten (10) calendar days of receiving the letter.  Additionally, the letter provides the sanctions for the alleged violations.

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For sale of unauthorized goods, the sanction can be disqualification of the retailer to accept SNAP benefits from 6 months to permanent disqualification depending on the number of previous violations.  A retailer can be permanently disqualified for selling unauthorized items if it has been warned twice before and a violation occurs for a third time.

Trafficking is the offense the USDA takes more seriously of the two.  If an undercover inspector finds evidence of trafficking, the sanction is the permanent disqualification of the retailer from accepting SNAP benefits.  The FNS does not care if this is the first offense nor the amount of money that was involved in the trafficking charge.  If a retailer is charged with trafficking, the permanent disqualification of the retailer is the only sanction the FNS provide.

Rincker Law, PLLC is prepared to help you understand the contents of the charge letter from FNS and determine how to respond to the charges.

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