Food Stamp Fraud Is a Felony in Arizona

colorful fruit in bins and crates -food stamp fraud

Food Stamp Fraud Is a Felony in Arizona

The supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) is probably better known by its old name—”food stamps.” This government assistance provides individuals and families in need with an EBT card that can be used at participating stores to purchase food. 

However, the similarity between how EBT, credit, and debit cards work makes it a target for skimming and other money-related types of fraud, as several SNAP users discovered recently. Whether you call it food stamp fraud, SNAP fraud, skimming, or EBT fraud, misuse of SNAP benefits is a crime in Arizona.

What Is Food Stamp Fraud?

The SNAP program offers assistance to low-income families to help them purchase nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, bread, cereal, and other staples like cooking oil or peanut butter. However, using SNAP benefits to purchase items that are not approved for the program is a crime.

Food stamp fraud can be defined as the misuse of SNAP benefits or the use of SNAP benefits that do not belong to you. 

Examples of SNAP fraud include:

  • Obtaining SNAP benefits by giving false information. Or withholding information on the application. For example, failing to mention that one of your children no longer lives in your household counts as fraud.
  • Using or producing counterfeit EBT cards. Like cloning the information from a legitimate card and adding it to a fake one.   
  • Misuse of EBT or benefits that were entrusted to you by another individual who is unable to shop for themselves. Using someone else’s card to buy food for yourself or your family is illegal. 
  • Buying, selling, transferring or redeeming food stamps for cash or something other than approved foods is also fraud. For instance, if the cashier at a convenience store sells you a pack of cigarettes but rings it up as groceries instead so you can use your SNAP card, that is a crime.

Penalties for Food Stamp Fraud

If you use SNAP benefits gained by providing false information, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount you spent.

  • If you spent below $100, the penalty is a class 1 misdemeanor. You could be facing a maximum of 6 months in jail, and fines of up to $2,500.
  • If you spent over $100, the penalty is a class 6 felony. Depending on your prior convictions, you could be facing 3 months to over 5 years in prison, as well as court fees and fines. 
  • All other forms of food stamp fraud are a class 5 felony. You could be sentenced to serve anywhere from 6 months to over 7 years in prison, and have to pay court fees and fines.

If You Are Charged with SNAP Fraud, You Need a Lawyer

It is important to hire a lawyer if you are being charged with any crime, but especially if you’re facing felony charges. 

Felony convictions mean you will no longer be able to participate in government programs like SNAP. This can be devastating if your family actively relies on that money to feed themselves. 

And criminal convictions can follow you for years to come. Having a felony on your record can impact not only your government benefits, but also your future job opportunities, access to housing, and your right to vote.

Hiring a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the Arizona justice system is the best way to secure a fair shot at avoiding a felony conviction. Todd Coolidge has over 25 years of experience as an Arizona criminal attorney. He has handled countless felony and misdemeanor cases, with outstanding results. Contact us today for a consultation on your case.




Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (8/15/23). Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash.