Welfare fraud occurs when someone provides false information to the federal government in return for welfare benefits. There are people who do this for many years on purpose to ensure they’re getting the correct welfare benefits, and there are just as many people who commit this crime without intent. It’s exceptionally easy to leave out information pertinent to the final decision the government makes to allow someone to take advantage of welfare benefits. Accidents happen, and it’s not always easy to fill out time-consuming, confusing paperwork the government requires.
Unfortunately, making an innocent paperwork mistake is still fraudulent. However, it’s not as bad as purposefully using misinformation or omitting information for personal gain. If you’re accused of welfare fraud because the government suspects you’re providing false information for benefits, you’re going to want to make your first call an NYC Welfare Fraud Lawyer.
An attorney with experience handling cases of this nature has the ability to assist you with the charges, to help you correct the situation, and they can help you stay out of jail or face lesser charges if you are convicted. It’s time to call a welfare fraud attorney to help you get through this difficult situation. It’s not easy to get through something like this without professional legal help.
Most Common Welfare Fraud Mistakes
Sometimes people make mistakes. You don’t mean to defraud the government, but it just happens. Sometimes it’s just a forgetful mistake, sometimes it’s just unknowingly providing information that’s incorrect, and sometimes it’s due to the fact you don’t understand precisely what an application is asking of you. Some of the most common welfare fraud mistakes include some of the following.
– Misreporting Income: To qualify for your welfare benefits, you must report all your income to the government so they can adequately compute your earnings and the benefits they might give. If you do freelance work for someone and don’t report the $300 per month you earn from them, it’s fraud. You might forget about it since it’s not something you consider taxable or sizable.
– Misreporting the Number of People in Your Home: The government allows you to receive more benefits if you have more people living in your home, and many people will lie about how many people live with them so they get more benefits. Perhaps you forgot that a child moved out of the house when you filled out your paperwork. It happens.
– Trafficking: Unfortunately, some people are going to take their welfare benefits and sell them to the highest bidder for cash so they can buy whatever they want and make a large profit from their welfare benefits. This is more than a small crime, and it shows definite intent.
There are always special circumstances in which you committed welfare fraud without knowing, even when it applies to something as serious as trafficking. Perhaps you had more than you needed that month and decided it would be nice to give your remaining benefits to someone else who had a greater need. You might not even take their money for it, but you cannot share your benefits by giving them to another person for any reason.
State laws demand anyone who commits welfare fraud is punished, but there is no way to know what kind of punishment you face without knowing the nature of your crime, the dollar amount, or whether it was intentional or an honest mistake. You could face jail time, fines, probation, or the loss of your benefits. None of which are circumstances you wish to deal with.
– Welfare Fraud in the First Degree: Class B Felony punishable by 1 – 25 years in jail
– Second Degree: Class C Felony punishable by 1 – 15 years in jail
– Third Degree: Class D Felony punishable by 1 – 7 years in jail
– Fourth Degree: Class D Felony punishable by 1 – 7 years in jail
– Fifth Degree: Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail
Call an Attorney
An attorney is going to help you fight your case. You want to take the time to call an attorney before you speak to anyone else once you’ve been accused and arrested for welfare fraud. This is a serious charge that could result in much of your life being spent in prison. You’re going to need all the time available to present your case, gather evidence, and allow your attorney to work on your defense. Welfare fraud committed by accident is not good, but it typically results in a lighter sentence and more empathy in court.
Call your attorney today to get the best possible defense against welfare fraud. Your attorney works hard to ensure you’re getting a fair trial and that your future is made easier. You don’t have a second chance to defend yourself against this crime.
Welfare fraud refers to the intentional misuse of the state welfare system by falsifying information on your application or withholding information. This is done by individuals as well as organized crime rings. If you are ever accused of welfare fraud, the first thing you should do is to contact a defense attorney immediately, as they may be your only line of defense against heavy financial penalties and in some cases prison.
Some common types of welfare fraud are:
The welfare system includes financial benefits, food benefits, home energy assistance, housing assistance, medical assistance and other assistance from programs meant to support families and individuals unable to support themselves without the State’s help.
A common form of fraud which large groups participate in, known as organized rings, is food stamp fraud by selling state benefits given through Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards (EBT) for cash, drugs or other illegal items. This is detected most of the time by banking institutions who file suspicious activity reports which involve cash withdrawals on accounts that have large EBT balances.
The New York State Office of the Welfare Inspector General is usually the authority who prosecutes welfare fraud cases. They may also refer a fraud case to other local authorities or prosecutors and only an attorney can advise you depending on the details of your particular case, what penalties you might be facing and what can be done to defend the charge against you.
The following New York Laws apply to welfare fraud:
Class A Misdemeanor:
Carries a sentence of up to 1 year in jail.
Class B Felony:
Carries a minimum prison sentence of 1-3 years and a maximum of 8 1/3-25 years.
If a person has a prior felony conviction within 10 years of the new felony, the minimum sentence for incarceration is 4 1/2-9 years and a maximum of 12 1/2-25 years, however, regardless of any past or present felony conviction, a person will be placed on parole for a period of between 1 and 3 years after release from incarceration.
Class C Felony:
Carries no mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of 5-15 years in prison
If a person has a prior felony conviction within 10 years of the new felony, the minimum period of incarceration is 3-6 years and a maximum of 7 1/2-15 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after release.
Class D Felony:
Carries no mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of 2 1/3-7 years in prison.
If a person has a prior felony conviction within 10 years of the new felony, the minimum period of incarceration is 2-4 years and the maximum 3 1/2-7 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after release. ¹
In addition to any jail or prison time, the State will require you to pay back to the last cent, any monies owed to them due to the fraud, and they can garnish any future employment earnings and possibly more, to ensure the debt is repaid.
Welfare fraud is a serious legal matter that can affect you for years to come and threaten your liberty. It is in your best interest to contact a New York City attorney if you have been accused of welfare fraud.
The Spodek Law Group are experts at defending their clients’ rights and freedom and are available 24 hours, 7 days a week, to answer your calls. The attorneys at Spodek Law Group are consulted by major news affiliates and are nationally recognized criminal defense attorneys. We will work hard for you and won’t leave your side until your case is resolved. Call us today for a free consultation.
New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law, Find Law (2017), http://codes.findlaw.com/us/
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.
Any type of fraudulent action with the intention of getting more welfare benefits than one deserves is a form of welfare fraud. If you’ve been accused of this crime, it’s in your best interest to contact a skilled welfare fraud lawyer right away to go over your options with you, prepare a defense and represent you.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the Common Types of Welfare Fraud that people commit and the degrees of welfare fraud.
Common Types of Welfare Fraud
Welfare fraud encompasses a broad category of fraudulent actions. However, there are common ways that people commit this type of crime.
The most common is providing false information to the welfare office. For example, if you report a lower income than you actually make or if you report that you have more people living in your household than you really do, each would be welfare fraud. There’s also failure to report certain income. This is common among people who get paid under the table or receive tips in cash.
The law requires you to report all your income to the welfare office when applying for or receiving welfare. If your income changes while you’re receiving welfare, you’re supposed to report the changes immediately. Failure to do so is fraud.
People can also commit fraud when they receive food stamps. They typically do so by selling the food stamps for money or exchanging them for prohibited items.
The Five Degrees of Welfare Fraud
There are five degrees of welfare fraud, with welfare fraud in the fifth degree being the least severe and welfare fraud in the first degree being the most severe. For a person to be guilty of any of the five degrees of welfare fraud, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
• There was a fraudulent welfare action.
• The person committing this action knew what they were doing and intended to defraud the welfare office.
Welfare fraud in the fifth degree only has the above two requirements. This is a class A misdemeanor and if you’re convicted, the maximum punishment is 1 year in jail.
To be convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree, you must have fraudulently obtained benefits worth over $1,000. This is a class D felony and the maximum punishment is a prison sentence that ranges from 2 years, 4 months to 7 years. It’s an indeterminate sentence, and that means the department of corrections will make the call on how much of the time you end up serving.
If you fraudulently obtained benefits worth over $3,000, then that’s welfare fraud in the third degree, a class D felony. The maximum punishment is the same as it is for welfare fraud in the fourth degree.
When the value of the fraudulently obtained benefits is over $50,000, it’s welfare fraud in the second degree, a class C felony. The maximum punishment is an indeterminate ranging anywhere from 5 to 15 years.
Finally, there is welfare fraud in the first degree, which is the charge when the value of the fraudulently obtained benefits is over $1,000,000. This is a class B felony, and it carries a maximum punishment of an indeterminate sentence ranging from 8 years, 4 months to 25 years.
Keep in mind that these are all maximum sentences. With a good lawyer to defend you, you’re unlikely to get the maximum, although this will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case.
Besides a prison sentence, you may need to pay restitution for the amount you received fraudulently, along with possible penalties.
Defending Yourself Against Accusations of Welfare Fraud
It’s good to consult with a welfare fraud lawyer as soon as possible when you’re facing fraud accusations, because that allows them plenty of time to prepare the best possible defense for you. They can evaluate your case and what specifically you’re accused of, find the best way to defend you and possibly negotiate with the prosecution for a plea bargain.
One of the key points in a welfare fraud case is whether the fraud was intentional. As you can see above, this is always a requirement for a welfare fraud conviction, no matter the degree of the fraud. If you simply forgot to report a change in income or the number of people in your household, that wouldn’t fit the bill. You would still need to return any extra benefits you received because of the mistake, but you could avoid a conviction for welfare fraud, provided you can create reasonable doubt about intentionally receiving those extra benefits. To help your lawyer better defend you, make sure you bring all the evidence you can to support your case and any paperwork you have about the charges of welfare fraud.
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