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Section 5K Obtaining or receiving department of transitional assistance property through embezzlement, theft or fraud;

SECTION 54.   Said chapter 18 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 5K the following 3 sections:-

Section 5L. (a) As used this section and section 5M, "food stamp benefits" shall mean benefits issued pursuant to the federal Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, 7 U.S.C. 2011 to 2029, inclusive, as amended, including such benefits contained on an electronic benefit transfer card.

(b) An individual commits the offense of food stamp benefits trafficking if the individual knowingly:

(1) presents for payment or redemption or transfers food stamp benefits in any form, including transfers to another, who does not, or does not intend to, use the food stamp benefits for the benefit of the household for whom the benefits were intended, as defined in the regulations of the department; or

(2) possesses, buys, sells, uses, alters, accepts or transfers food stamp benefits in any manner not authorized by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, 7 U.S.C. 2011, as amended.

(c) An individual who traffics food stamp benefits, as described in subsection (b), shall:

(1) if the food stamp benefits are of a value of less than $250 or if the item used, transferred, acquired, altered or possessed has a value of less than $250, be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 1 year or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both such fine and imprisonment; or

(2) if the food stamp benefits are of a value of $250 or more or the item used, transferred, acquired, altered or possessed has a value of $250 or more, be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 2 years or by imprisonment in a state prison for not more than 5 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both fine and imprisonment.

(d) If a person is alleged to have committed the offense of trafficking in food stamp benefits 2 or more times within a 6-month period, those offenses may be aggregated and charged in a single count and the offenses so aggregated and charged shall constitute a single offense; provided, however, that, if the aggregate value of the food stamp benefits alleged to be trafficked is $250 or more, the person shall be subject to the penalties prescribed in clause (2) of subsection (c).

(e) Crimes under this section may be prosecuted and punished in any county where a defendant used, transferred, acquired or possessed food stamp benefits or in the county in which the state agency responsible for administering food stamp benefits is headquartered.

Section 5M. (a) As used in this section, "organization" shall mean a corporation for profit or not-for-profit, partnership, limited partnership, joint venture, unincorporated association, estate, trust or other commercial or legal entity; provided, however, that "organization" shall not include an entity organized as or by a governmental agency for the execution of a governmental program.

(b) An organization commits the offense of organizational food stamp benefits trafficking if the organization knowingly; (i) uses, sells, transfers, acquires, alters or possesses food stamp benefits or electronic benefit transfer cards in any manner not authorized by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, 7 U.S.C. 2011, as amended, or the regulations of the department; or (2) presents for payment or redemption food stamp benefits that have been received, transferred, altered or used in violation of this section shall be guilty of organizational food stamp benefits trafficking.

(c) If an organization is alleged to have committed the offense of organizational food stamp benefits trafficking 2 or more times within a 6-month period, any of those offenses may be aggregated and charged in a single count and the offenses so aggregated and charged shall constitute a single offense.

(d) An organization that commits food stamp benefits trafficking as described in subsection (c) shall:

(1) if it is the organization's first offense under this section, be punished by a fine of not less than $5,000;

(2) if it is the organization's second offense under this section, be punished by a fine of not less than $10,000; or

(3) if it is the organization's third or subsequent offense under this section, be punished by a fine of not less than $50,000.

(e) A retail or wholesale organization owner who is convicted of organizational food stamp benefits trafficking and who also possesses a license to sell alcoholic beverages under section 12 of chapter 138 shall be referred to the appropriate licensing authority for possible disciplinary action pursuant to section 64 of said chapter 138.

(f) A retail or wholesale organization owner who is convicted of organizational food stamp benefits trafficking and who also possesses a license to sell lottery tickets under sections 26 and 27 of chapter 10 shall be referred to the director of the state lottery for possible disciplinary action.

(g) Crimes under this section may be prosecuted and punished in any county where defendant used, transferred, acquired or possessed food stamp benefits, or the county in which the state agency responsible for administering food stamp benefits is headquartered.

Section 5N. The department shall develop and make available on its website for download a sign specifying the department's fraud hotline. Business associations may also maintain a downloadable form of the sign on the business associations' websites. Such sign shall be posted in a conspicuous area in any business accepting electronic benefits transfer cards as a form of payment. Any business accepting electronic benefit transfer cards as a form of payment shall maintain a list of categories of prohibited products under section 5I at each cash register.