If you are suspected of a crime, an investigation can begin and involve multiple agencies without your knowledge. Without direct contact from police and other agents, you may not realize you are being investigated for crimes until charges are filed. However, the sooner you are able to hire a lawyer and begin building a defense, the more likely you are to avoid conviction. So how do you know you’re being investigated for EBT fraud? There are clues you can look for early on that may indicate an investigation without waiting for charges to be filed.
Signs You Are Being Investigated
If any of the following happen, it could indicate you are a suspect in a criminal EBT fraud case and should find a criminal defense attorney.
The police call or visit you: This doesn’t always mean you are under investigation, but it is a necessary step in any investigation. Any contact from police is a red flag in this case and should put you on alert, even if they ask about someone else or state you are not being investigated.
The police contact people you know: During an investigation, people may reach out to your loved ones, acquaintances, co-workers, or even people from your past for information. If you hear that anyone has been asked about you, this is a sign they are gathering information.
Unusual requests on social media: Officers may create fake accounts to follow you on public social media or to request access to private accounts. If you notice requests coming in from strangers, this could be a sign of investigators trying to gain access to you.
Police or unmarked cars show up: Police may survey areas you frequent, especially grocery and other stores in relation to EBT fraud. Seeing one or two cars is likely to happen to anyone, but if you continuously see these vehicles or notice you are being followed, this can be a sign of an investigation.
EBT Investigation Process
If an investigation is conducted in response to reports through the Anti-Fraud Locator Using EBT Retailer Transactions (ALERT) system, you will receive notification early on of this action. Food stamp investigation letters are sent out that give you ten days to respond to the results.
For ongoing investigations, a food stamp investigator may reach out to you or your contacts directly and be open about their concerns. However, they may also perform some undercover research, so being cautious is always recommended.
If you are given notice of an investigation, this is when you should look for an attorney who can help you navigate the process. They can attend the Administrative Disqualification Hearing with you, which will determine your guilt and the result of the investigation.
Rights During EBT Investigations
It is important to understand that even during an active criminal investigation, you have a set of rights laid out in the U.S. Constitution. A defense attorney will help you assert and maintain these rights if necessary.
You do not have to answer any questions or requests for information from a police officer, including going into the station for questioning. Only if you are under arrest do you have to go with them. Similarly, unless they have a search warrant, investigators are not entitled to access your home or your belongings, and it is not an admission of guilt to deny them this access.
If you do speak with an agent, get their information, including name and badge number, so that you can reference this as needed.
In the case of an arrest, you have the right to remain silent still, even though you must go with the officer. Be sure to tell them you are invoking this right, as well as the right to an attorney, and then do not respond to any questioning until a lawyer is present. Again, this is not an admission of guilt, but a right all suspects have.
If you have not yet retained an attorney before your arrest, you have the right to have them present during every conversation. Be sure to choose someone versed in EBT fraud who can help you navigate the investigation and trial process expertly from the beginning.