Welfare Fraud in San Diego
Welfare fraud is when people make false statements or fail to report significant information when applying for welfare programs, so that they can receive benefits they are not actually entitled to. Welfare is the system established by the government to help people who cannot, on their own, maintain a minimum standard of wellbeing. Eligibility can be based on: age, financial status, disability, or other situation. Welfare also includes food stamps, affordable housing, and family aid. It is a controversial system with active supporters and dissenters.
Some believe it to be a government’s duty to take care of its most downtrodden, while others believe this is too much of the government’s investment into the personal lives of its residents. This is also a hot button issue because welfare funding comes from collected taxes, and there is great debate over how the government should be allocating the revenues it receives from taxes. Each state is responsible for administering the welfare funds established by the federal government, and many have state-established welfare programs in addition to federal programs. California welfare programs include CalWORKS, CalFresh, and Medi-Cal.
Understanding Welfare and Institution Code Section 10980
Welfare and Institution Code §10980 prohibits fraudulently receiving welfare benefits. There are three elements to the crime/legal definition of welfare fraud:
- Deliberately misstating information or failing to provide relevant information in order to obtain, retain or increase undeserved welfare benefits;
- Applying for benefits under more than one name or by filing multiple applications to obtain multiple benefits; and/or
- Using, transferring, acquiring, purchasing, selling, possessing, altering or counterfeiting authorization to receive food stamps or actual food stamps.
Common Welfare Fraud in San Diego & California Courts
There are two main examples that California courts readily see, in terms of welfare fraud; they are categorized as: receipt fraud and internal fraud.
Receipt fraud is arguably the most common. This type of fraud involves those who receive or attempt to receive welfare they are not actually entitled to. There are a number of ways people commit receipt fraud, the most typical being:
- Claiming single parent status while not actually a single parent.
- Failing to report additional income or other benefits.
- Submitting a claim for a child who does not live in the home.
- Submitting a claim for fictitious or ineligible children.
- Collecting benefits from another state in addition to those collected in California.
One of the more sensationalized, actual cases involved a situation where A husband and wife applied for cash-aid based on their alleged low income. The couple failed to report that the wife owned a liquor store and recycling business. She also drove a $76,000 luxury car, shopped at high-end department stores and had almost $150,000 hidden in her bedroom dresser. For more situations, visit The California Department of Social Services "Welfare Fraud Stories."
Penalties for Welfare Fraud
The punishment for welfare fraud depends on which section of the Welfare and Institutions Code you are allegedly violating. Welfare fraud is known as a wobbler offense, in that in can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the offense (specifically, the defendant’s criminal history and the facts of the current charge). Here is a breakdown of the various charges and their punishments:
- Making a False/Misleading Statement in an Effort to Obtain Benefit
- The crime is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $500 fine.
- Filing Fraudulent Applications
- You are facing a wobbler if you are convicted of filing a fraudulent application because: you have filed multiple applications for the same person, or you have applied for aid for a fictitious person, or you have applied for benefits using a false identity.
- Food Stamps Welfare Fraud
- If you are convicted of engaging in any activity with unauthorized blank authorizations to participate in the food stamp program, you face a felony.
Enhancement to Welfare Fraud
You will face additional penalties if the welfare fraud offense you are charged for involves electronically transferred benefits. In fact, on top of the sentence for welfare fraud, you face an additional and consecutive:
- One year of incarceration if the transfer of benefits exceeds $50,000.
- Two years if the transfer exceeds $150,000.
- Three years if the transfer exceeds $1,000,000.
- Four years if the transfer exceeds $2,500,000.
Also, you may face additional penalties if you have a professional discipline that provides a state license, you could lose that license. If you are an immigrant, you may be subject to removal proceedings.
How do you prove you are not guilty of a welfare fraud?
Luckily, you have the option to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney who knows which, of the several, available defenses will be most beneficial to your case. The most common legal defenses are:
- Lacked Intent to Defraud
For example, if you believed you submitted a legitimate claim for benefits (and any incorrect statements or omissions were inadvertent), didn't realize that you needed to report lottery winnings, gifts, or an inheritance to the department, or simply forgot to update your status once one of your children became ineligible for benefits.
- Insufficient Evidence
For example, if your employer reported you because you had numerous duplicate files, documents were often missing from your case files, and you had suspicious contact with some of the applicants. And even if the evidence strongly suggests that you were embezzling funds, without actual proof, you should be exonerated of the offense. Unless the prosecutor can prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (that is, to a moral certainty), you are legally entitled to be acquitted.
- Mistaken Identity
For example, even if there are legitimate claims of welfare fraud, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are the guilty party. You could be accused of internal welfare fraud. Yet if the applicants are friends or family, they could be trying to take advantage of your position in the county. Perhaps they submitted incorrect information on their applications and, because you are close, you simply assumed they were providing correct information and didn't take steps to verify it as you should have.
Your Best Defense against Welfare Fraud Charges in San Diego
If you are charged with welfare fraud, seek the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. What you need is a local criminal defense attorney who knows San Diego's judicial system, such as Vik Monder. As an experienced local criminal defense attorney, Vik Monder knows how the system works and has the ability to represent you in a fraud case in San Diego, be it a an unemployment insurance fraud case or a welfare fraud case.
While this may sound easy, but the reality is quite complicated. To make sure you get the best legal scenario possible, you should talk to a skilled criminal defense attorney. Call the Monder Law Group today for more information.