Am I Committing Welfare Fraud?
In Florida, there are a number of ways to commit welfare fraud. In fact, many of those prosecuted for this offense may not even have known that they were doing anything illegal. Being convicted of this offense can have serious consequences, including jail time and fines, so if you or a loved one are being investigated for welfare fraud, it is critical to contact an experienced white collar crime attorney who may be able to help get your charges reduced or even dismissed.
Welfare Fraud Defined
According to state law, welfare fraud encompasses any act where a person uses public assistance funds for fraudulent purposes. Some of the most common examples of welfare fraud include:
- The failure to disclose a material fact that would have disqualified an individual from receiving benefits from federally or state funded programs;
- A failure to report a change in circumstances in an effort to continue to receive benefits;
- Receiving medical services and food stamps although lacking eligibility for these benefits; and
- Using, transferring, altering, forging, possessing, or trafficking in food assistance or Medicaid identification cards.
Even attempting to commit one of these acts or aiding another person in doing so qualifies as welfare fraud and can be punished accordingly.
Welfare fraud can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the benefits received. For example, when the value of the misappropriated benefits totals less than $200 over a 12 month period, the accused will be charged with a first degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. For values over $200, the charge becomes a third degree felony, which carries the threat of a five year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. When the benefits received were worth more than $20,000, but less than $100,000, the accused can be charged with a second degree felony, which is punishable by a 15 year prison sentence, while anything over $100,000 is considered a first degree felony, which could mean a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
To successfully convict a defendant of welfare fraud, a prosecutor must establish that the individual had the knowledge and intent to commit the offense. For this reason, there are a number of possible defenses in these types of cases, including that:
- The accused did not know that he or she failed to disclose a fact;
- The undisclosed information was not material;
- The evidence was discovered as a result of an illegal search;
- The accused made a routine mistake when filing for benefits; and
- The statement was not false when it was made.
Contact an Experienced South Florida White Collar Crime Attorney Today
Welfare fraud is zealously prosecuted in Florida, as a result of which, many innocent individuals are investigated and charged with the offense every year. If you are a resident of south Florida and have questions or concerns about a welfare fraud investigation, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling 305-670-9919 and a member of our dedicated legal team will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced white collar crime lawyer.