Welfare Fraud

Welfare fraud accusations are rampant even when there is no illegality. If you are accused of this crime, you must contact an experienced New York City welfare fraud defense attorney immediately.

Under New York law, a person engages in "Welfare Fraud" when he commits a "fraudulent welfare act" and thereby takes or obtains public assistance benefits. Obviously, there are some terms of art that carry specific legal definitions.

A person commits a "fraudulent welfare act" when he knowingly, and with the intent to defraud, engages in an act pursuant to which he either: (i) offers, presents or causes to be presented to the state, any of its political subdivisions or social services districts, or any employee or agent thereof, an oral or written application or request for public assistance benefits or for a public benefit card with knowledge that the application or request contains a false statement or false information, and such statement or information is material; or (ii) holds himself out to be another person, whether real or fictitious, for the purpose of obtaining public assistance benefits; or (iii) makes a false statement or provides false information for the purposes of establishing or maintaining eligibility for public assistance benefits, increasing or preventing reduction of public assistance benefit and such statement or information is material.

"Public assistance benefits" means money, property or services provided directly or indirectly through programs of the federal government, the state government or the government of any political subdivision within the state and administered by the department of social services or social services districts.

A person basically commits welfare fraud when he lies to obtain public assistance and the lie is material, meaning the lie affected the situation.

Welfare Fraud, in its most basic form, is "Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree," which is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. The degree of Welfare Fraud that a person commits goes up as the value that he obtains as a result of his fraud increases. Just like with other kinds of fraud, the degree of Welfare Fraud mirrors the Larceny statute in terms of punishment. Welfare Fraud is a serious crime.  See below for a more detailed explanation regarding the various degrees of Welfare Fraud, what the government needs to prove to sustain a conviction, and what the applicable sanctions are. If you, or a loved one, is accused of this crime, do not hesitate to contact John Buza for a free consultation.

  • Welfare Fraud in the First Degree
Welfare Fraud in the First Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 158.25. It is a class B felony. If a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class B felony, the minimum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 1-3 years in prison and the maximum is 8 1/3 - 25 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 4 1/2 - 9 years and the maximum is 12 1/2 - 25 years. In all circumstances, the person is forced to be on parole between 1 to 3 years after his release.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Welfare Fraud in the First Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person committed a "fraudulent welfare act;"
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud; and
  3. the person thereby took or obtained "public assistance benefits" with a value in excess of $1,000,000.
  • Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree
Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 158.20. It is a class C felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class C (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 5 - 15 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 3 - 6 years and the maximum is 7 1/2 - 15 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person committed a "fraudulent welfare act;"
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud; and
  3. the person thereby took or obtained "public assistance benefits" with a value in excess of $50,000. 
  • Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree
Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 158.15. It is a class D felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class D (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 2 1/3 - 7 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 2 - 4 years and the maximum is 3 1/2 - 7 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Welfare Fraud in the Third Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person committed a "fraudulent welfare act;"
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud; and
  3. the person thereby took or obtained "public assistance benefits" with a value in excess of $3,000.
  • Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree
Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 158.10. It is a class D felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class D (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 2 1/3 - 7 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 2 - 4 years and the maximum is 3 1/2 - 7 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person committed a "fraudulent welfare act;"
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud; and
  3. the person thereby took or obtained "public assistance benefits" with a value in excess of $1,000.
  • Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree
Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 158.05. It is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Welfare Fraud in the Fifth Degree, the government must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person committed a "fraudulent welfare act;" and
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud.
Accusations of any kind of Fraud are serious. Feel free to contact John Buza, an experienced lawyer, for a free consultation if you, or a loved one, is accused of this crime.