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Welfare Fraud Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

Welfare is designed to provide for those who are in need of financial assistance. People can apply for all kinds of welfare. Common types include housing assistance and food stamps. Business owners may choose to be part of the welfare system. They can agree to accept federal benefits such as Section 8 tenants and allow recipients to purchase food in their stores. All those who choose to interact with the welfare system in some way need to be aware of the kind rules they must follow in doing so. Failure to follow these rules can result in many types of penalties. Welfare fraud laws are quite specific. They vary according to state.

There are many types of welfare fraud. A person may not report how much they’ve earned or report all sources of income. This can make it look as if they have a lower income and thereby qualify for assistance when they might not have done so otherwise. If someone gets a new job and earns more money, they must tell officials in charge of the program. Failure to notify officials about such earnings can result in all sorts penalties including expulsion from the program and even possible prison time. It’s imperative to keep in mind that this issue can be complicated and unclear. All those who use or accept any form of welfare in any way should make use of legal counsel if they are facing any form of welfare fraud charges. Some states consider any form of welfare fraud a form of criminal behavior such as theft, larceny or perjury.

Typical Punishments

Someone may be suspected of welfare fraud if a report is filed with an agency entrusted with the supervision of welfare. An investigation may be opened against the person getting welfare. The agency will ask for supporting documentation and check it carefully. In that case, a determination of welfare fraud may be made by the agency. If someone is found in violation of the laws that govern welfare guidelines, the recipient will be notified in writing. They’ll also be notified about the possible penalties. A person can be forced to pay back any additional funds they obtained. For example, if they were supposed to be collecting three hundred dollars per month but accidentally received four hundred per month instead, the person will be asked to pay back the extra funds. They can also have that amount deducted from their checks in the future.

In addition, they may also be barred from applying for any form of welfare for at least a decade. Immigrants who are in the United States illegally and engage in welfare fraud may face deportation as well as fines and jail terms. They also may be barred from coming back to the United States for the rest of their lives.

The laws governing welfare fraud penalties have certain sentencing guidelines. Multiple factors will be considered when it comes to determining what happens to the accused. A judge may consider how long the fraud went on, the dollar amount involved and if the person has engaged in welfare fraud in the past. People who have engaged in this behavior many times in the past will face stronger penalties than those who have not committed any form of welfare fraud before.

By State

Like other crimes, what is a known as a statue of limitations may apply to any incident of welfare fraud. Every single state has different laws. In general the limitations are five years. All those accused should be aware the five years begin when the fraud was discovered by the agency. If someone engaged in welfare fraud ten years ago but the state found out recently, the statue of limitations will not apply in this case. If the person is not in the state where the fraud happened or they are out of the country entirely, state officials can still file welfare fraud charges. Each state is also free to determine what constitutes welfare fraud, who will be prosecuted and the kind of penalties that are to imposed on those convicted. Consultation with a lawyer can help clarify such details and provide the defendant with a defense.

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