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NY Penal Law § 158.20: Welfare Fraud in the Second Degree

July 4, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Welfare fraud is the crime of receiving public assistance benefits based on some type of fraudulent act, such as making false statements on an application for benefits, not reporting the receipt of another type of benefit such as workers compensation, or failing to report income. There are five welfare fraud offenses in the New York penal 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 158.20 for welfare fraud in the second 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 $50,000

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.

For Example

Anthony put in an application at the New York City Human Resources Administration for SNAP food benefits, temporary cash assistance, and public health insurance. His application was approved and he began to collect the benefits. He continued to collect the public assistance benefits for almost 3 years. He was able to receive the benefits because on his application, Anthony stated that he was unemployed and had no income. In fact, Anthony was self-employed and brought in a substantial income from his business. Anthony could be looking at charges of welfare fraud in the second degree if the total amount of benefits he collected is over $50,000.

Offenses that are Related

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

Welfare fraud in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law section 158.10

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

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

Possible Defenses

In order to convict you of welfare fraud in the second degree the prosecutor has to be able to demonstrate that you fraudulently collected benefits that amounted to more than $50,000. If the prosecutor is unable to prove the amount of benefits that you received fraudulently, then the court is probably going to dismiss the charge against you. That fact notwithstanding, the prosecutor could alternatively charge you with welfare fraud in the third, fourth or fifth degree.

The Sentence

This being is a class C felony offense, if you are convicted of welfare fraud in the second degree, your sentence might include a prison term of up to 15 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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