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If you have witnessed fraud or suspect someone of Food Stamps abuse in Georgia, you can report this to the authorities for investigation. You can file a complaint anonymously with the federal government authorities through the USDA or with the authorities in Georgia through the Department of Human Service’s Benefit Integrity and Recovery Unit (BRU). Here’s how:
Types of Food Stamp Abuse
There are four main categories of food stamp abuse and fraud:
Lying on Food Stamps Application
This is where a food stamps applicant lie on their benefits application, which leads them to receive money they are not entitled to. The most common form of this is when a person fails to disclose their full household income. This may be not reporting all their personal income, neglecting to report income for other members of their household, or not reporting income for an absent parent, or worse, not reporting that they are receiving food stamps benefits in another state.
Trafficking (Selling Food Stamps for Cash)
Another form of food stamp abuse in Georgia is when benefit recipients sell their food stamps for cash. It is illegal to trades food stamps for other items, including cash or drugs. If you buy food stamps from someone, you are also committing a crime. The buyer of food stamps valued at more than $100 is committing a felony. When the amount is less than $100, the crime is a misdemeanor.
There is also abuse of the program by some retailers. According to USDA data, most of the retailer abuse comes from small grocery stores and convenience stores. This is when retailers redeem food stamp benefits in exchange for cash. In a typical scenario, a customer might trade $100 worth of benefits for $50 cash, leaving the other $50 for the retailer.
State employees who work in food stamp programs can face stiff penalties for committing food stamp crimes. This includes creating or renewing fraudulent accounts or approving applicants for amounts they are not entitled to in exchange for some form of payback.
How to Report Food Stamp Abuse
You have two options to report food stamps abuse or fraud. In both cases, you can do so anonymously.
Option 1 – USDA Office of Inspector General
The first option to reporting food stamps fraud in Georgia is to file a fraud report with the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here’s how:
|How to Report Suspicious Food Stamps Fraud|
|Submit a Complaint||(800) 424-9121|
(202) 690-1202 (TDD)
Office of Inspector General
PO Box 23399
Washington, DC 20026-3399
Option 2 – Georgia DHS Office of Inspector General
In Georgia, The Department of Human Services (DHS), through it’s Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS), administers the Food Stamps program. The DHS Office of Inspector General actively investigates food stamps fraud in the state, through the Benefit Integrity and Recovery Unit (BRU). Here’s how to file a complaint:
|Online:||Submit a Complaint|
|Write to the DHS OIG:||Office of Inspector General|
Georgia Department of Human Services
2 Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Penalties for Food Stamp Abuse
If you are caught committing food stamp fraud as a benefit recipients, here are the penalties you could face:
- First time offenders are disqualified for one year (12 months).
- Second time offenders are disqualified for two years (24 months).
- Third time offenders are disqualified permanently.
In addition, an individual will be ineligible to participate in the Food Stamp Program for 10 years if the individual is found to have made a fraudulent statement or representation of identity or residence in order to receive multiple benefits simultaneously.
Also, Food Stamp Program disqualification penalties are higher for individuals who are found guilty in a Federal, State, or local court of trading or receiving Food Stamps for firearms, ammunition, explosives or controlled substances. If a court finds that an individual traded Food Stamps for illegal drugs, the disqualification is for 24 months for a first violation and permanent disqualification for a second violation. If a court finds that an individual traded Food Stamps for guns, ammunition, or explosives, the disqualification is permanent for a first violation. Individuals convicted of selling $500 or more of Food Stamp benefits will be permanently disqualified from the Food Stamp Program.
In more serious cases of fraud, the agency may pursue misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. You could go to jail if found guilty. However, Most counties want to recover their money, so if this is your first-time offense, you may get probation time so that the restitution to the government can be repaid, like this case in Gwinnett County, GA. You will also likely be disqualified from receiving further government benefits for a period of time.