Tennessee Department of Human Services Partners with Law Enforcement to Fight SNAP Trafficking

Thursday, December 22, 2016 | 10:16am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) through a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) attended a statewide meeting of the Association of Chiefs of Police and the Sheriff’s Association. TDHS spoke on the importance of partnering with local law enforcement across the state through State Law Enforcement Bureau (SLEB) agreements focused on addressing SNAP trafficking.

SNAP is the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. SNAP trafficking refers to the buying, selling or attempt to buy or sell SNAP benefits in exchange for money, drugs, guns, ammunition, or any other exchange on value. 

TDHS has the authority to operate as a SLEB as designated by USDA-FNS. With this authority, TDHS is empowered to partner with state and local level law enforcement.

“SNAP benefits support more than a half million Tennessee households which includes nearly a half a million Tennessee children who are living in poverty. We recently adopted a two generation approach to addressing poverty and building cycles of success” said Department of Human Services Commissioner, Dr. Raquel Hatter. “The purpose of SNAP is to alleviate hunger and address food insecurity in Tennessee. It also has a focus on employment. Our continued focus on SNAP trafficking reflects our commitment to this mission and the importance of ensuring that we do our best to mitigate and address fraud, waste, and abuse. We know that the majority of those we serve are doing the right thing and therefore want to ensure these individuals are the families who benefit. Special thanks to the Chief and Sherriff’s associations and the USDA OIG for their partnership!”  

SLEB agreements are intended to assist state and local law enforcement if during the course of conducting retailer investigations, information is discovered that shows involvement between the retailer or others in the commission of SNAP fraud (e.g. other retailers, SNAP benefit recipients, and/or other individuals or entities that may or may not be authorized program participants). The SLEB, in this case DHS, is granted authority to broaden its use of SNAP EBT benefits to the extent warranted for the purposes of fully documenting the nature, extent, and scope of SNAP violations being committed.

Sheriff Ashe, Executive Director for the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association said, “The Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association is pleased to partner with the Department in an effort to target those businesses that are violating the law. This is a serious problem in Tennessee and the tools that will be given Sheriffs in this state through this program will enable us to enforce the rules, regulations and laws that are currently in place.”

Recently, the Chattanooga Police Department entered into a SLEB agreement with TDHS.

“The Chattanooga Police Department is pleased to enter into the SLEB agreement- along with partners from across the state –  to take proactive measures to combat criminal fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and to help ensure taxpayer dollars supporting vital nutrition assistance benefits are used as intended,” said Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher.

For more information focused on TDHS program integrity and efforts to combat fraud please visit: http://www.tn.gov/humanservices/topic/dhs-inspector-general

If you suspect fraud contact the Department of Human Services Fraud Hotline at 1-800-241-2629, or email InspectorGeneral.DHS@tn.gov