When you’re facing accusations of welfare fraud, you need the best defense possible, and that’s where our New York City welfare fraud law firm can help. We’ll go over the facts of your case to determine the most effective strategy.
With all the different ways a person can commit welfare fraud, this can be a confusing charge, and the penalties if you’re convicted may include a prison sentence and fines. This post will cover what kind of actions can constitute welfare fraud, the degrees of welfare fraud and how to defend yourself in this situation.
What Is Welfare Fraud?
Welfare fraud, at its most basic level, is any act of fraud that’s intended to procure welfare benefits you’re not entitled to. Many actions can fit the bill, especially considering the many types of welfare that are out there.
Here’s the deciding factor in whether you commit welfare fraud – was the action intentional or accidental? For it to be fraud, you need to have set out to do it. The following examples will better illustrate this point.
You’ve been receiving welfare payments for a few months, and when you first applied, you were making $800 per month at your part-time job. Your boss increases your hours, and you begin making $1,000 per month, but you forget to report this change to the welfare office. Since you forgot and this wasn’t a case where you intentionally misled the welfare office, this wouldn’t be a case of welfare fraud.
Now, here’s the second example. You apply for welfare and under-report your income as $800 per month on the application, even though you actually make $1,000 per month. Because you intentionally did this to get more benefits than you were supposed to, this would be a case of welfare fraud.
As you may have noticed, intentionality can be one of the trickiest areas when it comes to welfare fraud. After all, in the first example, who’s to say that you forgot to report your increase in income instead of just intentionally doing it so you could keep getting the same amount of benefits? It’s more difficult to plead ignorance in the second situation, but if your income fluctuates or you have multiple jobs, you could make the case that you simply made a miscalculation.
Since your case can hinge on proving you didn’t intentionally commit welfare fraud, it’s important to consult with a skilled welfare fraud lawyer who knows how to create reasonable doubt in these cases.
The Severity of a Welfare Fraud Charge
Like other fraud charges, welfare fraud varies in severity depending on the value of the benefits that were taken fraudulently.
Welfare fraud has five degrees, four of which are felonies. Fifth-degree welfare fraud applies in cases when the amount taken is $1,000 or less, and it’s a class A misdemeanor. Fourth-degree welfare fraud applies in cases when the amount taken is over $1,000 but not more than $3,000, and it’s a class D felony. Third-degree welfare fraud applies when the amount taken is over $3,000 but not more than $50,000, and it’s also a class D felony.
Second-degree welfare fraud applies when the amount taken is over $50,000 but not more than $1 million, and it’s a class C felony. First-degree welfare fraud applies when the amount taken is over $1 million, and it’s a class B felony.
A conviction for any degree of welfare fraud can result in jailtime, although it’s obviously more likely the more that you took fraudulently. If you have any priors, especially prior felony charges, those will also factor in to your case.
Defending Yourself Against Welfare Fraud Charges
There are plenty of situations where people get charged with welfare fraud when they haven’t done anything fraudulent, but fortunately, these charges can be beaten. The outcome of your case is going to depend heavily on your specific situation and the quality of your legal defense team.
Our New York City welfare fraud law firm has handled many of these cases, and we know how to get the best results for our clients. During a consultation, we’ll see what kind of case the prosecution has built against you. This allows us to advise you on potential outcomes and figure out the right way to defend you if the case goes to trial. If it’s in your best interest to accept a plea deal, we’ll help you negotiate that with the prosecution. For welfare fraud in the fifth degree when you don’t have any priors, it’s often possible to get off with only a fine by taking a plea deal. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to results, but we can guarantee you the best legal defense our firm can provide.
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