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NY Penal Law § 158.10: Welfare Fraud in the Fourth Degree

July 4, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

When considering the crime of theft, we generally tend to think about such crimes as grand larceny, burglary, shoplifting and robbery. Nevertheless, there is another kind of theft that is known as welfare fraud. This is a crime that involves stealing resources from the government. For instance, if you file an application for welfare benefits with false information and you receive the benefits based on this application, you will have committed welfare fraud. Five welfare fraud offenses are covered in the New York criminal code. The particular charge you would face is based on the dollar amount of public assistance benefits you are accused of stealing from the government.  You could be prosecuted under New York Penal Law section 158.10 for welfare fraud in the fourth degree if you:

  1. Knowingly committed a fraudulent welfare act, and
  2. The value of the benefit funds you received from your activity was greater than $1,000

A “fraudulent welfare act” entails engaging in any of the following activities:

  1. Filing an application for a public benefit card in full awareness that the application contains false information,
  2. Assuming the identity of another person in order to get public assistance benefits, or
  3. Putting forth a false statement in order to fraudulently establish or maintain eligibility for public assistance benefits; or to get an increase or to prevent the reduction of public assistance benefits.

For the purposes of the welfare fraud legislation, the term “public assistance benefits” refers to money, property or services furnished by the federal, state or local government and administered by the Department of Social Services or by social services districts.

Case Law Example

Teresa Niver put in an application for and received public assistance benefits from the Schuyler County Department of Social Services. Unfortunately, when she filed her application, she neglected to report the income she was getting from a workers compensation benefits claim. As a result, Niver was convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree.  This charge was in relation to the amount of benefits she received, which was greater than $1,000. Her case was the case of the People v. Niver, 41 AD3d 961 (N.Y. App. Div., 2007).

Offenses that are Related

Welfare fraud in the fifth degree: New York Penal Law section 158.05

Welfare fraud in the third degree: New York Penal Law section 158.15

Welfare fraud in the second degree: New York Penal Law section 158.20

Welfare fraud in the first degree: New York Penal Law section 158.25

Possible Defenses

In order to get a convict against you on a charge of welfare fraud in the fourth degree, the prosecutor has to be able to demonstrate that your fraudulently received benefits funds exceeded $1,000. If the prosecutor is not able to prove that, even if the prosecutor was able to prove that you did indeed get the benefits fraudulently, then the court is probably going to dismiss the charge.

The Sentence

Because this is a class E felony, if you are convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree, your sentence might include a prison term of up to 4 years, a probation term of 5 years, and the payment of a fine. You would also be obligated to repay the funds that you received fraudulently.

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