What Is Welfare Fraud?
This is a crime where the welfare recipient intentionally gives false information to a social services office about the income of the home, the number of people living in the home or other aspects that are used to determine eligibility in order to get more money from the state. There has been an increased effort in trying to prosecute those who are trying to commit welfare fraud. More investigations into the amount of income and into the number of people who actually live in the home are taking place as caseworkers require proof of residence and employee records.
Not reporting added income, such as cash, or another type of assistance, such as workman’s compensation, can also be considered welfare fraud. If someone receives any kind of government assistance, then all changes must be reported. If the income goes over a certain threshold, then the family isn’t supposed to receive benefits any longer or would get the benefits reduced. When someone doesn’t declare all income that is made or any other changes, then it means the family receives the original amount with no changes. If the person reports that there are more people living in the home than there really are, then the application process would allow for more benefits even if there really aren’t that many people in the house at the time.
There are various charges that can be filed depending on the type of benefit that is received. Food stamp fraud is the most common with Medicaid fraud being at the top of the list as well. Fraud in the first degree results when the person intentionally omits information or commits another act to get more benefits and when the benefits that are received equal to about $1 million. Any kind of property received or services that are received can be included with the amount of welfare fraud used to determine the charge. Welfare fraud is usually seen as a class B felony and can be punishable by up to 25 years in prison or up to five years probation.
Examples Of Welfare Fraud
If a parent completes an application and declares that there are children living in the home on a full-time basis when they are only there a few days during the week, then this would be fraud because the amount of the benefit would be more than what it should be for the home. Another example would be if a couple or an individual were to use numerous names in order to get benefits. This type of fraud is often seen in multiple states instead of in one state unless the applicant goes to a different county and uses a completely new type of identification. When an applicant begins working from being unemployed or gets a new job making more money and doesn’t report the change, then this could be considered fraud as there is more money in the home.
Defenses To Welfare Fraud
The prosecution has to show that the applicant intended to defraud the government in order to get more benefits. A NYC criminal attorney would then be tasked to prove that the defendant didn’t receive the amount of benefits and that the defendant didn’t knowingly provide false information. If the charges are legitimate, then the attorney would work to get the sentence reduced or the charges reduced to second or third degree.
New York Penal Law 158.20: Welfare fraud in the second degree
Welfare fraud is a specific type of insurance fraud that is addressed under New York Penal Code 158.20. Welfare fraud is a large scale problem that costs the state of New York millions of dollars every year. Many people do not realize how serious welfare fraud is and the very real consequences of being convicted of this charge. Both law enforcement and the court system take this type of fraud very seriously and take a tough stand against people who commit welfare fraud. The consequences of a conviction can be severe with prison time and fines. It is important to understand exactly what welfare fraud entails and to know your legal rights if you are charged with this crime.
Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree Broken Down
New York penal code 158.20 states that a person is guilty of welfare fraud when s/he knowingly provides false information in an attempt to profit from the welfare system, and the public assistance benefits erroneously received are in excess of $50,000. This can include providing false information on an application, failing to report income or providing false information regarding income, or pretending to be another person. Public assistance benefits are defined as money, property, or services from federal, state, or local governmental agencies such as a department of social services.
Welfare fraud in the second degree is considered a class C felony. If convicted, sentencing could include state prison time of up to 15 years, probation of up to 5 years, restitution, and a fine.
Example of Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree
If someone lost their job and applied for unemployment, food stamps, medical assistance, rent assistance, etc they are required to notify the social service agencies when their income situation changes. If this person worked “under the table” for cash so that the income would not show up, that is considered welfare fraud. They are withholding crucial information that would affect the amount of the benefits they were entitled to receive. If the total amount of benefits they received exceeded $50,000, they could be prosecuted for welfare fraud in the second degree.
A defense against the charge of welfare fraud in the second degree could involve the amount of benefits received. To qualify under code 158.2, the total fraudulent benefits received must exceed $50,000. A good defense attorney will look at the total amount received and try to prove the majority of it was received legitimately. The lower the amount of benefits that were received under fraudulent circumstances, the “lighter” the charge and less severe the sentencing could be. While the charge of fraud in the second degree might not apply, there is still welfare fraud in the third (benefits exceed $3,000), fourth (benefits exceed $1,000), or fifth degrees (no dollar amount assigned).
Public assistance programs are set in place to help people get back on their feet when financial hardships hit. The court system takes a dim view of people who take advantage of these programs and try to cheat the system to receive money they are not entitled to. If you or someone you know is charged with welfare fraud in the second degree, it is critically important to contact an experienced New York defense attorney immediately. This is a serious charge that carries significant prison time, fines, and restitution of any benefits received. An experienced defense attorney could mean the difference between spending 15 years in prison or having the charges dropped altogether.
New York Penal Law 158.15: Welfare fraud in the third degree
The welfare system is designed to provide financial and other assistance to people in need. Unfortunately, the system is often stretched and underfunded, which makes it difficult to serve all people that need it. Because of this, there are many laws in place that make it a crime to commit welfare fraud and steal from the system.
In New York, one of the laws that make it illegal to steal from and defraud welfare is welfare fraud in the third degree. This law essentially makes it a crime to receive welfare, of any amount, based on inaccurate information. The crime of welfare fraud in the third degree is for such crimes in which a recipient receives over $3,000 worth of support fraudulently while intentionally committing fraud.
Examples of the Crime
Due to the size of the city and the welfare system, there have been a lot of examples of welfare fraud in the third degree. One example of this crime would be if a person that is struggling applies for welfare, but provides inaccurate information regarding their income or other assets. If a person states that they do not have a job, or earn below a certain amount of money, but they actually have a well-paying job, it would be an example of welfare fraud in the third degree if they received more than $3,000 in benefits.
The welfare fraud law in New York has five different levels of degree. The most severe is for people that receive above $10,000 due to fraud. A first-degree offense is for people that defraud for less than $250.
Defense of the Crime
For those that are charged with welfare fraud in the third degree, it would be a good idea to hire a NYC criminal lawyer immediately. NYC criminal lawyers that are experienced in this area of crime and law could provide great defense services, which could help you to beat the charges.
The main defense for welfare fraud in the third degree is to make it hard for the defense to actually prove that you received the welfare fraudulently. In some cases, the prosecutor may not legally be able to obtain the documentation necessary to do this, which would lead to the case being thrown out. Another form of defense is to state that you did not understand the documents and did not know you were committing fraud. This could be easier to prove if your intent to commit fraud is not completely clear.
Punishment for Conviction
Committing the crime of welfare fraud in the third degree is a serious offense and is considered a Class D felony. Due to the severity of the crime, those that are convicted of it could end up being sentenced to 7 years in prison and may then face up to 5 years of additional probation. Furthermore, the penalties will include financial penalties, including paying back the received amount and paying additional fines.
Due to the severity of the crime, it would be wise to hire NYC Criminal lawyers. These lawyers will have far more success in negotiating an punishment for you. In many cases, they may be able to get it reduced to a lower degree, which could result in far less of a punishment.
In conclusion, welfare fraud in the third degree is a serious crime that can come with significant penalties. To ensure that you are receiving the legal assistance that you need, it would be wise to hire an attorney if you are charged. This will greatly improve your chances of winning the case or negotiating a lower charge and punishment.
New York Penal Law 158.10: Welfare fraud in the fourth degree
Welfare fraud in the fourth degree is classified as a type of theft in the New York Penal Code. There are four types of welfare fraud crimes enumerated in the New York Penal Code, with welfare fraud in the fourth degree being the least serious.
A person needs to bear in mind that welfare fraud may result in criminal charges, both in New York superior court and in federal court as well. Welfare fraud can end up being a violation of New York state law and federal law at the same time.
Elements of Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree
The elements of welfare fraud in the fourth degree include intentionally committing some sort of act designed to obtain welfare benefits. The value of any benefit received through welfare fraud must be at least $1,000.
Examples of what constitute a fraudulent welfare act include presenting an application for public assistance that includes false information. Another example of a fraudulent welfare act includes pretending to be another individual in order to obtain welfare benefits. Finally, an example of a fraudulent welfare act includes making a false statement in order to continue or increase welfare benefits.
Example of Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree
An example of welfare fraud in the fourth degree involves a woman named Marcia. Marcia prepared an application for welfare benefits that contained patently false information. She submitted the completed, in accurate application to a welfare agency. The application was processed and approved.
Marcia ended up obtaining benefits over $1,000. In the end, Marcia faced charges for welfare fraud in the fourth degree.
Another example of welfare fraud in the fourth degree involves Edward. Edward had been receiving benefits, but would not qualify going forward in the future. Edward provides false information in order to continue to receive benefits in the future.
Sentence for Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree
The New York penal code classifies welfare fraud in the fourth degree as a class E felony. A person convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree faces the possibility of a prison sentence of up to four years. In the alternative, a judge could sentence a person convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree to a term of probation of five years.
When convicted of the crime of welfare fraud in the fourth degree, a person is also likely to face a restitution order. In addition, a judge may also include a fine in a sentence in a welfare fraud in the fourth degree case.
Defenses to Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree
An NYC criminal lawyer can provide a defense in a case involving a welfare fraud in the fourth degree charge. One defense to welfare fraud in the fourth degree is to demonstrate that the benefits received were not more than $1,000 in value. A person is not guilty of welfare fraud in the fourth degree if the value of benefits received does not reach the $1,000 level.
Another potential defense is that information contained in an application for assistance was not intentionally inaccurate. The applicant merely made an unintentional mistake in completing the application for assistance.
A criminal defense attorney can provide an analysis of possible defenses to welfare fraud in the fourth degree during an initial consultation with a prospective client. In addition, a lawyer will provide answers to questions a person might have about a case involving welfare fraud in the fourth degree. As a general rule, a New York criminal defense attorney does not charge a fee for an initial consultation with a prospective client in a welfare fraud in the fourth degree case.
New York Penal Law 158.05: Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree
Acts of criminal theft is easily recognized as shoplifting from a department store, robbery or grand larceny. Rarely, if ever, would welfare fraud come to mind. Yet, according to New York’s penal code 158.05, a person commits a crime of theft through an act of welfare fraud. This crime occurs when a person steals from the government.
An example of this would be if you complete an application for welfare benefits with false information, and as a result, you receive the benefits. This is an act of welfare fraud. In New York, there are five welfare fraud offenses that can lead to charges.
The amount of public assistance that you receive from committing fraud determines the specific charge you will face. The least serious charge of welfare fraud is welfare fraud in the fifth degree.
Penal Code 158.05
New York’s Penal Code is designed to set legal standards for the process of defining criminal acts. Under section 158.05, welfare fraud in the fifth degree occurs when you receive public benefits from the government based on committing a fraudulent act related to welfare. Whenever you engage in any of the following acts, it is defined as a fraudulent welfare act:
• Knowingly including false information on an application to receive a public benefit card, then submitting to receive those benefits.
• Impersonating another person so you can get public assistance benefits.
• Establishing or maintaining eligibility for public assistance benefits by making a false statement. The same is true when you try to get an increase or prevent a reduction of public assistance benefits by making a false statement.
The welfare fraud statute defines “public assistance benefits” as services, property or money that is provided by federal, state or local government entities that social services districts or the department of social services administers.
Example of Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree
There are many scenarios that can lead to a charge of welfare fraud in the first degree. In this example case, defendant Kelvin Swain did not report the unemployment benefits that he was receiving. Yet, he applied for recertification to continue receiving public assistance benefits. Because of this, he received a conviction of welfare fraud in the fifth degree. The court ordered him to repay $824.24 of benefits that he received from committing the fraudulent act. People v. Swain (N.Y. App. Div., 2003)
Defenses for This Charge
If including false information on an application for public assistance was a mistake, you may have a valid defense against a welfare fraud charge. Likewise, making a false statement about something that is not considered a material issue, being charged with welfare fraud is not an appropriate charge.
Sentencing if Found Guilty
Welfare fraud in the fifth degree is the least criminal charge for a fraudulent welfare act. It is a class A misdemeanor and can result in a one year jail sentence if you are convicted. Other sentences can include three years of probation and a fine. Additionally, you will be required to repay the money that you received under fraudulent conditions.
Contact Spodek Law Group
Obtaining public assistance benefits through fraudulent means is a criminal act that a person can be found guilty of in court. Even though welfare fraud in the fifth degree is a misdemeanor, it is something that you should take seriously. Not only could you be put in jail, but you will have to repay the money you received under false conditions. Having a NYC criminal attorney to handle your case can help.
The Spodek Law Group offers a free consultation to discuss your case and determine how we can use over 50 years of experience to defend your misdemeanor charge. Contact us today to learn how we will represent you.