Food Stamp Fraud Misuses Government Funds and is a Federal Crime
This past September, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a special investigative unit to combat food stamp fraud. Individual states are able to join the investigative unit, and in January, South Carolina’s attorney general announced that the state has created the South Carolina SNAP Recipient Trafficking Prosecution Pilot Program.
SNAP is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program branch of the food stamps program, which receives both federal and state tax assistance for funding. SNAP enables low-income families to purchase a wide variety of food items, from formula and milk to ice and produce to food-producing plants for a garden or orchard. However, SNAP does not cover alcohol, drugs, or other illicit items.
Unfortunately, some SNAP recipients and vendors who accept SNAP or EBT have begun to commit food stamp fraud. SNAP recipients receive a debit card which can be used at retailers who accept the program. The food stamp fraud involves a SNAP recipient taking their card to a retailer, purchasing a specific amount of food, but being charged more for the items and receiving cash in return. The cash is then most often used for drugs, alcohol, or personal luxuries such as hair care items or designer clothes.
It is illegal at the federal and state level to use food stamps like a personal bank account. The program exists for food only, and specifically unprepared food items – the stamps may not be used in restaurants or delis.
“Taxpayers fund food stamps as a benefit to those who need assistance,” said Marlon Miller, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit. “When unscrupulous business owners take advantage of these benefits for their own profit, the taxpayer is cheated and the individuals who really need the help also suffer.”
Tougher Food Stamp Fraud Investigations Can Hurt Innocent Recipients
If you receive food stamps in the form of SNAP or EBT, this new focus on stopping food stamp fraud could unintentionally bring suspicion to you. The program covers so many products and services, it might be easy to unintentionally request something that is not covered by SNAP, and you could appear to commit food stamp fraud and be reported to authorities.
Defrauding the federal and state government it illegal. It is important to stop food stamp fraud, because it only hurts tax payers, and innocent recipients of government programs and services. If you notice someone committing food stamp fraud by receiving cash to purchase tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or personal items that are not part of the food stamp program, contact authorities immediately.
The Strom Law Firm Defends Food Stamp Fraud Whistleblowers
If you have first-hand knowledge of food stamp fraud occurring among your family, your associates, or your business, you should contact authorities to blow the whistle on the illegal activity. Because you will be a witness at the trial, you should also contact a qui tam or whistleblower attorney to protect your rights. The qui tam attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand the intricacies of federal and state fraud charges, so contact us today for help with government program fraud from Medicare and Medicaid to food stamp fraud. 803.252.4800