SNAP fraud victims fight for reimbursements, even after action by Congress
Victims of food stamp fraud are still struggling to access reimbursements they are entitled to, despite a new federal law passed last year.
Janette Almestica left her full-time job as a Bronx leasing agent to help care for her mother, who is in the advanced stages of dementia. Due to the loss of income, they needed to rely on government-issued food benefits - also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
Then, however, Almestica says scammers stole hundreds from her SNAP account last fall.
"They stole the money in California, Arizona and Texas," she says. "I was devastated. I had a lot of emotions ... because it's a violation of your privacy."
Documents show Almestica reported fraud to the New York Department of Investigations and applied for a full reimbursement. She received a denial weeks later.
She says she appealed the decision and was told to get a lawyer. She turned to Tara.
Congress passed a law in December to replace SNAP benefits stolen between October 2022 and September 2024. Almestica's case falls within that window.
The Turn to Tara team contacted the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance in Albany, which oversees the program. Though a spokesperson wouldn't comment on the case, they admitted they are still "finalizing the processes necessary to issue replace of stolen SNAP benefits."
New York is estimated to implement the plan in August, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Connecticut and New Jersey started last month.
Data shows more than 18,000 claims of SNAP skimming totaling more than $14 million reported in New York over the past 18 months. News 12 has heard from hundreds of victims across the tri-state. New York City even launched an awareness campaign urging preventative measures.
Those measures include covering the keypad when entering your PIN, examining card swiping devices for tampering and checking your account for unauthorized charges.
Almestica hopes sharing her story can help others fight SNAP fraud.
"It feels awful," she says. "It feels like, you know, you're not counted here."