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NY Penal Law 158 Welfare Fraud

We’re continuing our look at New York’s penal laws with today’s post that’ll be covering welfare fraud. Before we get into the actual charges involved, it’ll be useful to go over some of the definitions so everything becomes a little clearer.

Definitions; presumption; limitation.

  • By public benefit card, we mean any kind of medical assistance card, food stamp card, or any other type of device that the state will give you, which entitles someone to get public assistance.
  • Fraudulent welfare act is intending to defraud someone and then presenting an application for public assistance, or pretending to be someone else to receive public assistance, or to make a false statement to establish eligibility for public assistance.
  • Now by public assistance benefits, we mean money, property, or other services that are provided by the state.

There’s something known as rebuttable presumption involved in all of this. What that means is that someone who has five or more public assistance cards won’t have this apply if they’re employed by social services and they have them for that purpose, or anyone who holds onto a family member’s cards with their consent, or anyone who gives personal care services and has the cards for that purpose. The presumption of this whole thing is rebuttable with evidence that shows you didn’t have these cards with the intent to defraud. The presumption applies to prosecutions involving possession of public benefit cards. And as far as limitations go, nothing in this prohibits a recipient of public assistance from using their benefits as collateral for a loan.

Welfare fraud in the fifth degree.

Now that we’ve covered definitions and presumptions involved, let’s get into the charges. For welfare fraud in the fifth degree, you’d have to commit a fraudulent welfare act and then take public assistance. This is a class A misdemeanor.

Welfare fraud in the fourth degree.

The next level of charge for welfare fraud involves doing the same thing as the fifth degree charge, but in a total value of more than $1,000. This is considered a class E felony.

Welfare fraud in the third degree.

Same thing as before, but this time the total amount is exceeding $3,000. With this crime, you’ll be facing a class D felony.

Welfare fraud in the second degree.

This time the amount would have to be more than $50,000. This one is a class C felony.

Welfare fraud in the first degree.

Here’s the strictest charge, and this one involves a total amount of more than one million dollars. Welfare fraud in the first degree is a class B felony.

Criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree.

Now we move over to criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree. You’re guilty of this charge if you knowingly loan money and accept a public assistance card as collateral, or get a public assistance card in exchange for some sort of benefit, or if you transfer a public assistance card to someone else in exchange for money or a controlled substance. Criminal use of a public benefit card in the second degree is considered a class A misdemeanor.

Criminal use of a public benefit card in the first degree.

For the first degree version of this crime, you’d have to get three or more public assistance cards from someone in exchange for some sort of benefit, or transfer and deliver three or more public assistance cards to other people in exchange for money or a controlled substance. This one is a class E felony.

Criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree.

You’re guilty of this crime if you possess five or more public assistance cards in names other than your own with the intent to defraud someone else. Criminal possession of public benefit cards in the third degree is a class E felony.

Criminal possession of public benefit cards in the second degree.

Same thing as the last charge, but for this one it’s ten cards instead of five. This one is a class D felony.

Criminal possession of public benefit cards in the first degree.

Again, same thing, but this time it’s twenty-five or more cards. This charge is a class C felony.

Welfare Fraud Is Serious

Even if a crime has not been committed, accusations of welfare fraud seem to run rampant. If you’ve been accused of welfare fraud, it’s important to contact an experienced welfare fraud attorney in New York right away.

According to New York State law, someone engages in welfare fraud once they commit a fraudulent welfare act, taking or obtaining public assistant benefits. While that’s the general description, there are specifics and details that will determine the exact legal definition of welfare fraud.

A person commits the crime of welfare fraud when he knowingly acts with the intent to defraud and requests pubic assistant benefits using false information. This may mean that the person pretends to be someone else in order to get pubic assistance benefits. When it comes to welfare fraud public assistance benefits may refer to property, money or services that are provided either directly or indirectly through government programs. In essence, a person commits welfare fraud when they lie in order to get public assistance and when the lie has a large affect on the situation.

At its most basic, welfare fraud is considered Welfare Fraud in the Fifth degree, which is a class A misdemeanor. This crime can mean up to one year in jail for the offender. The degree of welfare fraud increases as the value of what the offender collects increases. Here’s a breakdown of the five degrees of welfare fraud:

Welfare Fraud in the First Degree

Welfare Fraud in the First Degree is a class B felony. The minimum sentence of incarceration is one to three years in prison, while the maximum is 25 years in prison. The sentence can be affected by whether or not this is the person’s first offense. In order to be considered Welfare Fraud in the First Degree, three elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the person did commit a fraudulent welfare act, (2) the person knowingly committed this act and had the intent to defraud, and (3) the person received public assistant benefits that valued more than $1,000,000.

Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree

Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree is a class C felony. The maximum period of incarceration is 15 years. In order to be considered Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, three elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the person did commit a fraudulent welfare act, (2) the person knowingly committed this act and had the intent to defraud, and (3) the person received public assistant benefits that valued more than $50,000.

Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree

Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree is a class D felony. The maximum period of incarceration is seven years. In order to be considered Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, three elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the person did commit a fraudulent welfare act, (2) the person knowingly committed this act and had the intent to defraud, and (3) the person received public assistant benefits that valued more than $3,000.

Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree

Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree is also a class D felony. The maximum period of incarceration is seven years. In order to be considered Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree, three elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the person did commit a fraudulent welfare act, (2) the person knowingly committed this act and had the intent to defraud, and (3) the person received public assistant benefits that valued more than $1,000.

Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree

Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree is also a class A misdemeanor. The maximum period of incarceration is one year. In order to be considered Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree, two elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the person did commit a fraudulent welfare act and (2) the person knowingly committed this act and had the intent to defraud.

Welfare fraud is a very serious crime. If you or someone you love has been accused of welfare fraud, it’s important to get in touch with an attorney right away. It’s important to contact an attorney even if you feel you’ve been wrongly accused of welfare fraud.

Welfare fraud is a serious crime that can result in fines and even a prison sentence, depending on the amount that you obtained fraudulently. That’s why if you’re being charged with welfare fraud, it’s smart to hire an experienced welfare fraud attorney to help you with your defense. Whether you’re convicted will depend significantly on the quality of your defense and creating reasonable doubt that what you did fit the definition of fraud.

Welfare fraud covers many different crimes and can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Here’s what you need to know about it and how you can fight the charge.

Degrees of Welfare Fraud

The state of New York recognizes five Degrees of Welfare Fraud, and the degree of the fraud depends on the amount that was fraudulently obtained. Here are the Degrees of Welfare Fraud, the amounts they cover and potential punishments:
Welfare fraud in the first degree, class B felony – The value of the stolen benefits must exceed $1 million. With no priors for the defendant, minimum punishment is indeterminate sentence from one to three years in prison. Maximum punishment is indeterminate sentence from eight years, four months to 25 years in prison.
Welfare fraud in the second degree, class C felony – The value of the stolen benefits must exceed $50,000. With no priors for the defendant, this crime doesn’t have a minimum punishment. Maximum punishment is indeterminate sentence from five to 15 years in prison.
Welfare fraud in the third degree, class D felony – The value of the stolen benefits must exceed $3,000. With no priors for the defendant, this crime doesn’t have a minimum punishment. Maximum punishment is indeterminate sentence from two years, four months to seven years in prison.
Welfare fraud in the fourth degree, class D felony – The value of the stolen benefits must exceed $1,000. With no priors for the defendant, this crime doesn’t have a minimum punishment. Maximum punishment is indeterminate sentence from two years, four months to seven years in prison.
• Welfare fraud in the fifth degree, class A misdemeanor – The value of the stolen benefits must be $1,000 or less. With no priors for the defendant, this crime doesn’t have a minimum punishment. Maximum punishment is one year in jail.

What Is an Indeterminate Sentence?

This means that you’re initially sentenced to a specific range of time, such as the ranges listed above. How much of that time you serve will depend on the department of corrections, which decides when you can be released. Good behavior could result in a shorter sentence.

Other Requirements for Welfare Fraud

The degree of the welfare fraud corresponds to the monetary value of the stolen benefits, but every degree also has two other key requirements. The first is that you did something constituting fraud. The second is that you did this intentionally to misappropriate welfare benefits.

Examples of Welfare Fraud

Now that you know the details of welfare fraud, let’s look at how it works in practice. It can be fraudulently taking advantage of any kind of government assistance program, including cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid or housing benefits, to name just a few.

Among the most common ways to commit welfare fraud is filling out a fraudulent application. This is when you include false information or omit information to obtain welfare benefits. Many applicants under-report their income, especially if they have work where they receive their pay under the table.

Food stamps can only pay for specific items and are not to be exchanged for cash. Despite that, many recipients commit welfare fraud by selling their food stamps for money, or buying a prohibited item, such as alcohol, and having the cashier ring it up as something else. Some cashiers do this and ring up a higher-priced, legitimate item, and then pocket the extra money. In that situation, both the person using the food stamps and the cashier would be committing fraud.

Preparing Your Defense Against Welfare Fraud

Besides the potential jailtime that comes with a conviction for welfare fraud, you could also be looking at civil penalties forcing you to pay back anything you obtained through welfare fraud, along with additional fees. And when you’re convicted of welfare fraud, that will almost always mean you can no longer apply for benefits.

A skilled lawyer can make all the difference when you’re charged with welfare fraud. They can put together the best defense based on your specific case. For example, if you forgot to report certain income, the court may realize it was a simple mistake and not an intentional act of fraud, but a lawyer gives you the best bet at proving that. The sooner you find yours, the sooner they can start building your defense.

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