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The USDA is Cracking Down on Grocery and Convenience Stores for Food Stamp Trafficking

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2016 | Criminal Defense |

You never thought you’d come face to face with agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When you think of federal agents, the FBI comes to mind, or the DEA.

Certainly not the USDA, right?

Do you own a grocery or convenience store?

But if you own a grocery store, convenience store, or similar type of specialty store – and food stamp transactions are a source of business – the USDA is exactly the agency you could face.

grocery-store-checkout-small.jpg

The offense is food stamp trafficking – and it could cost your business dearly.

What is food stamp trafficking?

You can find this offense under Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The law requires that you accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) payments only for “eligible food.”

Food stamp trafficking occurs when your clerk or cashier issues cash to the customer in exchange for the customer’s EBT payment.

How can this happen?

The law formally defines food stamp trafficking as “[t]he buying, selling, stealing, or otherwise effecting an exchange of SNAP benefits issued and accessed via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards . . . for cash or consideration other than eligible food. . .”

This could easily happen to you. You don’t even have to be present in the store. The USDA will hold the owner accountable, even if you had no knowledge of the offense.

For example, your cashier could succumb to pressure from friends or acquaintances to exchange $75 in cash for $150 in EBT benefits. This benefits the store’s bottom line. At the same time, it benefits the EBT customer, who is no longer limited to buying only “eligible food” with his or her cash.

  • Under the law, the store owner is 100% responsible for the illegal conduct of his or her employees – and could subject you to punishment – even if this type of transaction happens just one time.

What is the punishment for food stamp trafficking?

  1. The USDA could permanently disqualify you from accepting EBT payments.
  2. Any future stores you plan to open might also be disqualified.
  3. You could face a fine for selling or attempting to transfer ownership of your store as a “de facto” attempt to avoid disqualification.

Call 877-880-5753 to learn how to avoid disqualification.

At Roberts Law Group, PLLC, we’ve successfully defended clients cited with various types of EBT violations. In other words, we can help preserve your ability to continue collecting EBT as a form of payment – and keep your business alive and profitable.

Call 877-880-5753 today.

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