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SNAP Disqualification Retailer Defense

Whether it is a convenience store, large supermarket, or even a delivery route or meat market, EBT benefits can be used to make food purchases. However, there may be times when ineligible items, such as gasoline or alcohol, are purchased by EBT customers. In some cases, these purchases are intentionally allowed by store owners, managers, or other employees. But in other instances, purchases of ineligible items are due to mistakes on the part of individuals who are not aware of SNAP regulations. Nevertheless, when violations take place, the USDA will crack down hard. If you are facing SNAP violation allegations from the USDA, you will need a sound legal defense to avoid disqualification penalties, which is why you should only rely on attorneys who specialize in retailer defense for these matters.

Term Disqualification
When you receive a letter from the USDA detailing the allegations against you, it will likely contain the possible penalties your business may incur. This may include what is known as a term disqualification, which means your business would be temporarily disqualified from accepting EBT benefits from customers. If your SNAP violations are considered to be somewhat minor, you may be facing a suspension of only six months. However, if your violations are deemed to be more serious, this temporary disqualification could last three to five years.  For example, if you sold gems, gemstones, birthstones, etc, this could be a violation. Needless to say, any disqualification, be it a few months or several years, may be damaging enough financially to force you to close or sell your business. Unfortunately, the USDA does not negotiate settlements once it believes violations have occurred, which means you will need an attorney on your side who can actively fight the agency’s charges in court.

Permanent Disqualification
When the USDA is considering the possibility of slapping a permanent disqualification on your business, this often means it supposedly has evidence you and your business are guilty of SNAP trafficking. If this happened, this points to the agency believing you or other employees swapped EBT benefits with customers in exchange for cash or other items, which may include weapons or drugs. If your business is located in a smaller community or neighborhood, don’t be surprised if trafficking is at the center of the USDA’s targeting your business for disqualification. If you allow this penalty to be imposed on your business, it will have long-lasting consequences that may close your business for good, impact your ability to secure future employment, or make it impossible to obtain loans for a new home. To avoid this penalty that is used far too often on small businesses, contact a lawyer who knows how to plan a strong defense and fight the USDA.

Incorrect Information
In many cases where the USDA plans to enact disqualification penalties against a retailer, it is discovered the agency is basing its charges on incorrect information. Though the agency will say it has analyzed numerous transactions from your store that it considers to be suspicious in nature, case analysts for the agency often interpret information incorrectly or get your store’s information mixed up with others who have committed SNAP violations. If you believe this to be the case with your store, do not hesitate to begin fighting to clear your name. Since the agency makes it hard for businesses to appeal these decisions by allowing only 10 days to file an appeal, you should take the charge letter you received from the USDA to a skilled attorney who can examine the charges against you, explain your options, and give you sound advice on how to proceed.

Undercover Investigations
If the USDA believes your store may be involved in SNAP trafficking, it will use its investigators to go undercover at your store by pretending to be customers who want to make illegal purchases or exchange EBT for other items. If you have new employees who may not understand the complexities of SNAP, they can often be coerced into making transactions that bolster the USDA’s case against your store. Unfortunately, even if it was your employees who made poor choices or wrong decisions, the USDA will still hold you responsible for whatever took place, since you are either the store’s owner or manager. Therefore, making the mistake of immediately contacting the USDA and blaming others for the situation will only make a bad situation worse. Instead, don’t panic and use your time wisely by speaking to a SNAP disqualification retailer defense attorney who can take over your case immediately.

Your Appeal Process
Since you do not want the USDA to be successful in its plans to implement a disqualification of any kind against your business, you will of course want to take advantage of the appeal process. This will consist of an administrative appeal and a judicial appeal, which is often needed since the USDA rules against most retailers initially in the administrative appeal review. Due to the fact that your case may wind up being heard in court, it is vital you not make critical mistakes along the way that could damage your case beyond repair. For example, never take it upon yourself to contact the USDA and try to explain your way out of an alleged SNAP violation. Though agency personnel you speak with by phone will sound sympathetic to your situation, they are actually waiting for you to say things that will incriminate you and can be used against you in court. Rather than let off-the-cuff comments lead to a SNAP disqualification for your business, let your attorney handle all communication with the USDA.

To ensure you have the legal defense against the USDA’s allegations, schedule a consultation immediately with a lawyer who can prevent your business from being yet another victim of the disqualification penalty.

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