There are three main penalties enforced by the USDA:
- Permanent disqualification
- Temporary disqualification
- A civil fine
These penalties revolve around your ability to do business and keep the doors of your gas station, convenience store, or specialty grocery store open. Both permanent and temporary disqualification will impact your store's revenue, while a civil fine may reach into the thousands of dollars.
(In rare cases, you may also face criminal charges, but much of this depends on the size and scope of the alleged EBT trafficking.)
We look at the penalties for food stamp trafficking in more detail below.
In general, the most damaging penalty is permanent disqualification. Many retailers depend on EBT customers as a significant source of revenue. Some retailers may go out of business because of this.
Under the Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR § 278.6), the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has the authority to disqualify any retail food store or wholesale food concern from participation in EBT transactions, based on the retailer's failure to comply with the Food Stamp Act of 1977.
The following could lead to permanent disqualification:
- Your employees engaged in EBT trafficking, defined as the buying, selling, stealing, or otherwise exchanging SNAP benefits for cash or ineligible items
- Your store sold ineligible items (such as alcohol or cigarettes) and was twice sanctioned in the past for doing the same thing
- The knowing submission of false information on the SNAP program application
Temporary disqualification is also fairly damaging, depending on your cash position in your business, and length of time of disqualification. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, temporary disqualification can last anywhere from six months to 5 years. The length of time will depend on the extent of the USDA's evidence against you and the number of prior SNAP violations.
Civil Money Penalty
A civil fine is known as a "civil money penalty" under the Code of Federal Regulations, which authorizes the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to enforce the law against food stamp trafficking.
The actual amount of the civil fine depends on how much business your store does in EBT transactions, as well as the number and type of SNAP violations alleged against you by the USDA.
Important: If there is any good news here, it's the USDA's authority to issue a civil fine - instead of disqualification - meaning you could preserve your future EBT revenue. This outcome depends on whether or not your business had the proper compliance program in effect.
Facing a SNAP Violation Charge Letter?
If you've received a charge letter from the USDA, or have recently been contacted by government agents in regard to your EBT transactions, contact Roberts Law Group. Based in North Carolina, we help owners of gas stations, convenience stores, and specialty grocery stores anywhere in the country.
Call 866-630-2389 today.
North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.