Welfare fraud is a serious offense in Florida, and those convicted can face harsh penalties. A criminal record can have long-term consequences for a person's ability to seek employment, housing, education, join the military, or obtain access to public assistance in the future. If you or a loved one has been charged with welfare fraud, it is critical that you contact an experienced welfare fraud defense attorney in West Palm Beach who will fight in your best interest.
Welfare fraud is committed in a variety of methods, all of which result in a personal advantage. Making a false statement for program eligibility, failing to notify the appropriate agencies about a change in circumstances, or forging/trafficking food stamps are some instances of common welfare fraud cases in Palm Beach County and Broward County. Any of these actions can result in a benefit fraud conviction, which can lead to costly fines and time in jail or prison. If you or a loved one has been charged with welfare fraud, you should immediately contact a welfare fraud defense lawyer today.
Welfare Fraud Laws in Florida
Public assistance fraud can be committed in a variety of ways, but usually involves being dishonest or misleading in order to obtain benefits for yourself or someone else. According to Florida Statutes Section 414.39, a person commits public assistance fraud if they:
- Make a false statement, impersonation, or misrepresentation when applying for public assistance or any other federally sponsored aid program,
- Fail to notify the relevant agency of a change in circumstances, such as a change in address or income, in order to continue receiving public assistance; or
- Aid and abet another individual in committing welfare fraud of any form.
It is also illegal to receive or use food assistance fraudulently. These are government vouchers that can be exchanged for groceries for persons on public assistance. It is also unlawful in Florida to acquire food stamps by:
- Forging them;
- Altering them;
- Sell or make fraudulent food stamps
- Attempt to alter or forge food stamps;
- Attempt to use fraudulent food stamps;
- Traffic food stamps to other people; or
- Aid and abet another person into receiving food assistance benefits fraudulently
Welfare Fraud Penalties in Florida
The severity of the penalty for breaking welfare fraud laws in Florida is determined by the amount of illegal public aid obtained by the person. Depending on the details of the case, public assistance fraud might be categorized as a felony or a misdemeanor.
- If a person spends less than $200 in any 12-month period, he or she commits a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
- A person who has a value of $200 or more but less than $20,000 in any 12 consecutive month period commits a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in Florida state prison and a $5,000 fine.
- A person who has a value of $20,000 or more but less than $100,000 in any 12 consecutive month period commits a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine.
- A person who has a value worth of $100,000 or more in any 12 consecutive month period commits a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in Florida state prison and a $10,000 fine.
Welfare Fraud Attorney in Palm Beach County
If you or a loved one is being investigated for or charged with welfare fraud, an experienced West Palm Beach welfare fraud attorney may be able to get your charges reduced or even dismissed. To speak with a criminal defense attorney today, contact us or call us at (561) 671-5995.