Thursday, August 24, 2017

Court Interprets Scope of Food Stamp Fraud For Upcoming FLDS Leader's Trial

As previously reported, last year eleven leaders and members of the polygamous FLDS Church were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud.  The indictments claim that FLDS leaders required food stamp recipients to donate their benefits to a central clearing house which then redistributed food and household items to all in the community, whether or not they were food-stamp eligible. All defendants except Lyle Jeffs have either reached plea bargains or had charges against them dismissed.  In anticipation of this remaining defendant's trial, the government has filed a motion regarding jury instructions that will be given. In United States v. Jeffs, (D UT, Aug. 23, 2017), the court ruled that it will not instruct the jury that donating food items acquired through SNAP benefits is illegal, saying in part:
donation of SNAP benefits (i.e., the funds provided to a household on an EBT card) without the exchange of food products is prohibited.... SNAP benefits may only be used by the household to purchase eligible food for the household. Thus, the funds placed on the EBT card must be used to purchase eligible food for the household and any other use of those funds, including donation, is prohibited. However, there is no statute or regulation that would prohibit the donation of food items obtained through the use of SNAP benefits.
The court said that otherwise a SNAP recipient could be prosecuted "if they donated cookies to a school bake sale that were made from food obtained through the use of SNAP benefits." Fox13 News reports on details.