"What is the penalty for food stamps fraud in Texas"

In this post, we will detail how to report Food Stamps EBT Fraud in Texas, including how to do so anonymously. Plus, see the penalties if you are caught lying on your SNAP application or for buying, selling, or engaging in any form of SNAP or EBT trafficking.

The food stamps program (SNAP benefits) 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 Texas, there have been high-profile arrests recently of both Food Stamps recipients and EBT retailers who have committed fraud (see videos below).

If you have witnessed Food Stamps fraud or suspect someone of committing SNAP fraud, you can report this (anonymously if you prefer) to the authorities for investigation. We will show you how below.

"How to Report Texas Food Stamps EBT Fraud"

Table of Contents:

  • About Food Stamps Fraud
  • Types of Food Stamps Fraud
  • Examples of SNAP Trafficking
  • How to report Food Stamps Fraud in Texas
  • Tips for Reporting SNAP Fraud in Texas
  • FAQs about Reporting SNAP Fraud in Texas
  • Videos of Recent Texas Arrests and Convictions for SNAP Fraud

About Food Stamps Fraud

Food stamp fraud is the abuse of a public assistance benefit given to individuals in need.

The sale or purchase of public assistance benefits is termed trafficking and is made illegal by both federal and state law.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) works with state agencies and retailers to investigate and prosecute SNAP trafficking.

All states and the federal government make welfare fraud a crime.

Criminal penalties vary and can range from a misdemeanor offense to serious felony charges. Misdemeanor penalties vary by state but typically involve jail time of less than a year.

Felony offenses carry prison terms ranging from a year to life imprisonment.

In addition, violators may also be prohibited from receipt of SNAP benefits, and stores participating in benefit trafficking may be permanently disqualified from participation.

Types of Food Stamps Fraud

SNAP fraud can be committed by individuals and retailers.

Here are the three forms of SNAP fraud:

  1. Applying for and receiving SNAP benefits they are not eligible for
  2. Buying, selling, or exchanging SNAP benefits.
  3. SNAP retail stores may also commit fraud by selling items that are not on the SNAP-eligible list.

What is Food Stamps Trafficking?

Food stamps trafficking is the buying and selling of SNAP benefits for cash or items not authorized under the Food stamp Act of 1977.

Some retailers violate the food stamps Program by accepting SNAP benefits for cash at less than the actual value or for unauthorized items such as tobacco, alcohol and etc.

Examples of SNAP Trafficking

Here are examples of SNAP benefit trafficking. Engaging in any of the activities below is considered SNAP fraud.

  • Buying/Selling/Stealing EBT card (or its numbers) for cash (or other items of value).
  • Exchanging guns, ammunition, explosives, or drugs for SNAP benefits or an EBT card.
  • Purchasing items that have a bottle refund, discarding the contents, and exchanging the bottle for the refund.
  • Purchasing eligible SNAP food item with an EBT card for purposes of selling the food to someone else
  • Using your EBT card to purchase food items and exchanges them with a SNAP retailer for cash or credit
  • Getting “cash back” on an EBT transaction, regardless of whether or not the store receives a financial benefit from the transaction.

Food Stamps Fraud in Texas

In Texas, SNAP benefits are issued on a debit card (the Lone Star Card).

The Lone Star Card, which works like a debit card, is used for redeeming SNAP and Cash Assistance benefits through the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system.

The Texas Human Resources Code Section 33.011 specifies state penalties for benefit-related crimes. Penalties range from Class A misdemeanors to third-degree felonies depending on the value of the benefit.

How to report Food Stamps Fraud in Texas

There are two ways you can report SNAP fraud in Texas. You can either report it to the HHSC OIG or the USDA OIG. Here’s how:

How to Report Suspected SNAP Fraud to the HHSC OIG

Your first option to report SNAP fraud is to the state of Texas.

This is especially important if you think someone has lied about their income or assets or is misusing their SNAP benefits. Your report is confidential.

The office of the Inspector General (OIG) within the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is responsible for investigating public assistance fraud including Food Stamps fraud.

The OIG investigates incidents involving those enrolled in assistance programs like Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, WIC, and/or CHIP.

Anyone can report suspected fraud to the OIG. There are two ways to report fraud to the OIG:

Option 1 – Online

You can file the fraud report online using the “Waste, Abuse & Fraud Form.”

Click here to access the online form.

Option 2 – By Phone

Alternatively, you can report SNAP fraud to the office of the Inspector General over the phone by calling their toll-free fraud hotline at 1-800-436-6184.

How to Report Suspected SNAP Fraud to the USDA OIG

Alternatively, you can report SNAP fraud of any kind to the USDA Office of Inspector General.

  • Call the USDA Office of Inspector General: 
    • (800) 424-9121
    • (202) 690-1622
    • (202) 690-1202 (TDD)
  • Write: 

United States Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General
PO Box 23399
Washington, DC 20026-3399

Tips for Reporting SNAP Fraud in Texas

Here are some helpful tips for reporting food stamps fraud to the HHSC office of the inspector general:

Provide as much information as possible. Helpful information includes:

  • The date of birth and Social Security number of the person you suspect is getting state benefits they are not entitled to receive.
  • The phone number and address of the person you suspect.
  • If you suspect a provider of wrongdoing, give the name and address of the clinic, office or business they work for.
  • Any other information you think might be helpful to an investigator.

What Happens Next?

Once you submit your fraud referral, you will receive a tracking number.

It is important to keep this number handy as you will need to provide it if you have more information to add later.

FAQs about Reporting SNAP Fraud in Texas

Here are the most frequently asked questions about reporting SNAP fraud in Texas:

Will I get an Update from the OIG after I report Fraud?

No. The OIG is prohibited from providing you with an update on the status of any open investigation.

How do you anonymously report food stamp fraud in Texas?

You can anonymously report SNAP fraud in Texas online here or by calling the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-800-436-6184.

If you wish to remain anonymous, do not provide your name as it may be subject to public disclosure.

If you choose not to remain anonymous, please provide your name and phone number so OIG investigators may contact you if any additional information is needed.

What is the penalty for food stamp fraud in Texas?

According to Texas penal code, section 33.011, welfare and food stamp fraud punishment can range from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

The federal law states fraud (intentional program violation) carries the following punishment schedule for the individual:

  • first conviction of fraud – one year of food stamps ineligibility
  • second conviction of fraud – two-year ineligibility
  • third conviction of fraud – lifetime ban

How do I report someone for falsely claiming SNAP benefits?

You can report SNAP fraud in Texas online here or by calling the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-800-436-6184.

If you wish to remain anonymous, do not provide your name as it may be subject to public disclosure.

If you choose not to remain anonymous, please provide your name and phone number so OIG investigators may contact you if any additional information is needed.

What happens if you get caught lying for food stamps in Texas?

You may go to jail and/or lose your benefits, perhaps indefinitely.

According to Texas penal code, section 33.011, welfare and food stamp fraud punishment can range from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

The federal law states fraud (intentional program violation) carries the following punishment schedule for the individual:

  • first conviction of fraud – one year of food stamps ineligibility
  • second conviction of fraud – two-year ineligibility
  • third conviction of fraud – lifetime ban

Videos of Recent Texas Arrests and Convictions for SNAP Fraud

Here are stories of the most recent cases of arrests and convictions of individuals and SNAP retail store owners for committing SNAP Fraud:

March 11, 2022 – WACO, Texas (KWTX)

Two women were given prison sentences following convictions for $1.2 million in food stamp fraud

Ana Rioja, 51, and Maria Consuelo de Ureno, 55, pleaded guilty on May 12, 2021, to conspiring to commit and committing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fraud, reported by KWTX.

U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera Jr. handed Rioja a 30-month term of imprisonment to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release.

Ureno received 37 months followed by a three-year term of supervised release. She could also face loss of her legal status in the U.S. and removal proceedings following her release from prison.

The judge also ordered Rioja and Ureno to pay $975,401 and $1,284,282.15 in restitution.

According, to investigators, Ureno, Rioja and other co-conspirators exchanged SNAP benefits for cash by using a point of sale device at a local meat market Rioja owned in February 2016.

May 25, 2021 – BEAUMONT, Texas

Beaumont restaurant owner sentenced to 27 years after guilty verdict in food stamp fraud case

“A Beaumont restaurant owner at the center of a 2019 food stamp fraud investigation has been found guilty by a Jefferson County jury. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison for “illegal possession/transfer of EBT benefits.”

Johnny Ray Coleman, owner of Coleman’s Burger Deli in Beaumont’s South End, was accused of food stamp fraud in 2019 along with more than 60 others.”

How to Report Food Stamps EBT Fraud in Texas Summary

We hope our answer to the question of how to Report Food Stamps EBT Fraud in Texas was helpful to you!

If you have more questions about your EBT or SNAP Benefits, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our other articles about Texas SNAP and Texas EBT, including:

How to get a Texas EBT Card Replacement
What can I buy with the Texas Food Stamps card?
Texas EBT Balance and Login Instructions
Texas Food Stamps EBT Phone Number
Where You Can Use Texas EBT card
How to use Texas SNAP on Amazon for Delivery
Get 50% OFF Amazon Prime with Texas EBT Card
What is Countable Income for Texas EBT?

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