How to Report Food Stamp Fraud in Georgia
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The food stamps program is intended to assist qualified low-income individuals and families purchase nutritious food. Like any public assistance program, there are people who abuse the opportunity, at the taxpayer’s expense. In the state of Georgia, there has been high profile arrests recently of both Food Stamps recipients and EBT retailers connected to fraudulent activity. If you have witnessed Food Stamps fraud or are suspicious of fraudulent activity, you can report this to the authorities for investigation.
How to Report Food Stamp Fraud in Georgia
To file a complaint, you have two options: You can file a report with the USDA’s Office of Inspector General or the Georgia DHS Office of Inspector General. In either case, you can file an anonymous report, unless you wish to be contacted for further details about your claim.
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). The Food Stamps program is funded by the Federal Government and run by the USDA. The USDA’s Inspector General actively fights Food Stamp fraud and welcomes help from concerned citizens. If you have information or evidence concerning Food Stamps/EBT fraud by a benefit recipient or retailer, you can submit a complaint. 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. If you have information or evidence concerning Food Stamps/EBT fraud by a benefit recipient or retailer, you can submit a complaint to the Georgia DHS Office of Inspector General. Here’s how:
|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
Common Types of Food Stamps Fraud
There are various ways by which people commit food stamps fraud. Here are the top four:
Lying on Benefit Application
One form of food stamps fraud is when people withhold or falsify information in order to receive food stamp benefits they are not entitled to. This includes lying in their SNAP application about income or assets. The food stamp program comes with strict eligibility requirements that must be met for an application to be approved. As a program for low-income individuals and families, one way for people to cheat the system is to lie about how much money they make or have. Another way people lie on their food stamps application is to not disclose all their assets, so that they will appear poorer than you actually are.
Selling Food Stamps for Cash (Trafficking)
Another common way by which people commit food stamps fraud is to sell their food stamps for cash. This is called trafficking. Food stamps recipient currently get their money on an EBT Card, which acts as debit card. However, unlike a bank debit card, the EBT Card can only be used to buy approved food items from EBT approved retailers. You cannot use the food stamps card to withdraw cash at an ATM. To get around this, some people trade their food stamps for less cash in return. For example, an individual might sell $200 worth of food stamps for $150 cash. The seller lost 25% of their food stamps money, but walked away with cash that could be used to buy things that are not approved on the food stamps list. The buyer of food stamps is also committing a crime – a felony if the food stamps they buy is valued at more than $100 (a misdemeanor if the amount is less than $100).
In the video below, you will see a Georgia Food Stamps recipient caught by an undercover investigative report by KUSA trying to sell his food stamps for cash in a parking lot of a grocery store.
This is where retailers authorized to accept food stamps participate in fraudulent activity. This comes in various forms, including food stamps trafficking – the illegal sale of food stamps benefits for cash or other ineligible items. According to a USDA report, most food stamps trafficking occurs in small grocery and convenience stores, accounting for close to 40% of cases. The rate of trafficking in larger grocery stores and supermarkets—where 82 percent of all food stamps benefits were redeemed—remained low at less than 0.5 percent.
In the videos below, you will see several small grocery and convenience store owners in Florida and Baltimore area were arrested for food stamp fraud by US Attorney’s Office.
State of Georgia Employee Fraud
This is where state employees involved in approving or renewing food stamps application are involved in fraudulent activity by funneling benefits to those who don’t qualify. Another way state employees may be involved in illegal activity is to fraudulently create new food stamp accounts, or to cause food stamp accounts to be reactivated for persons who were not eligible. In one example, a Former Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) employees pleaded guilty federal district court defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture of approximately $600,000 dollars.
In the video below, you will see state employees in Delaware charged with food stamp fraud, costing taxpayers about a million dollars.
Once the Office of Inspector General receives information or suspect that someone is committing food stamp fraud, the agency will review the report and determine if an investigation is necessary. If an investigation is initiated, it may include visits to the home of the family who is receiving assistance. It may also involve interviews with family and neighbors who can attest to the size of the household and any income sources.
If after the investigation, the agency concludes that food stamp fraud has been committed, there are options available to them. The first is a disqualification hearing. During the hearing, the agency must prove that the individual intended to commit fraud. If they are successful at doing so, the food stamps recipient may be disqualified from receiving benefits as shown below. They may also be required to repay any amounts received in benefits or any amount in excess of their rightful entitlement.
Georgia for Food Stamp Fraud Penalties
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 food stamp fraud, the agency may pursue misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. Jail time varies by state, but range from up to one year in jail and a substantial fine for the first offense, to up to five years in prison, several years of probation or an even bigger fine for subsequent offenses.