In the state of Washington, there are a number of offenses that can result in a drug charge. These crimes are outlined in the Uniform Controlled Substance Act (UCSA). The majority of these charges are felony offenses, which are the most serious type of criminal charge. These crimes are taken very seriously and can often lead to federal drug charges as well. Recently, a King County man was arrested for a unique drug charge – trading crack cocaine for food stamps.
The Seattle PI reports that Thai Nguyen was arrested after he allegedly offered an undercover investigator crack cocaine in exchange for goods purchased with food stamps. According to the article, the 36-year-old man offered an undercover agent from the US Department of Agriculture $140 in cash as well as $80 worth of crack in exchange for purchasing nearly $500 of groceries on the undercover officer's food stamp card.
Nguyen's business may have been a lucrative one as food stamp cards can be used to purchase certain foods but cannot be used for everyday items nor for alcohol and cannot be exchanged for cash legally. The article states:
“[U]nscrupulous recipients, store owners and middlemen sometimes arrange to pay recipients cash for goods bought with food stamps; recipients then can use the money as they see fit while store owners pad their bottom line.”
Nguyen has been charged with unlawful trafficking in food coupons as well additional charges for a drug offense. In Washington it is a crime to exchange drugs for any reason; money does not even have to be involved. For example, delivery of drugs is a felony under RCW 69.50.401. These laws are in place to prevent crimes like this in which people attempt to circumvent the law by exchanging drugs for another item. In this case however, the use of food stamps in the drug crime led to more serious charges.
If convicted, Nguyen can face 10 years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines and more. Additionally, he will face steep penalties for the charge of trafficking food stamps. If you find yourself facing charges for any type of drug crime in Seattle, it is important to understand that you have defense options. Contact a Washington drug crime attorney right away to find out more about how an experienced attorney can help you.