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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Trial Court’s Order Banning Man Guilty of Food Stamp Fraud from Food Pantries Ruled Unlawful
Key point. It is illegal for food stamp recipients to obtain free food from churches and other charities and then sell their food stamps to raise money for themselves. Churches that operate a food distribution program should be alert to this risk, and seek guidance from state and federal welfare agencies, and other charities, on steps that can be taken to mitigate it.

An Ohio court overturned a trial court's order banning an adult male who committed food stamp fraud from visiting food pantries. An adult male (the "defendant") engaged in a scheme to use food stamps to buy groceries for others in exchange for cash payments. His scheme was uncovered, and a grand jury returned an indictment that charged him with 11 counts of the illegal use of food stamps in violation of state law. The defendant pleaded guilty to four counts in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining counts. The trial court accepted appellant's pleas and scheduled the matter for sentencing.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed the following punishments and sanctions: (1) restitution of $1,711.50; (2) community service; (3) 180-day jail sentence; (4) permanent "disqualification" for food stamps; and (5) an order that the defendant "not enter food pantries for assistance." The defendant appealed, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering that he be banned from entering food pantries in the future. He did not challenge the other punishments.

A state appeals court ruled that the ban on visiting food pantries could be overturned only if it was unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable, and it "reluctantly'' concluded that this test was met. It began its opinion by noting:

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