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What are the penalties for welfare fraud in New Jersey?

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

 

Welfare Fraud Penalties in New Jersey

Welfare fraud is a big problem in New Jersey and across the country. Lots of folks take advantage of the system to get benefits they don’t deserve. This ends up hurting taxpayers and folks who really need the help. There are some pretty serious penalties for welfare fraud in New Jersey that folks should know about.

New Jersey has an electronic system to monitor the info people put on welfare applications. They check to make sure recipients aren’t collecting benefits in another state, have a valid Social Security number, aren’t working and earning money they didn’t report, and aren’t getting unemployment benefits. There are penalties for providing false or inaccurate info on purpose, including:

  • Being ineligible for future benefits
  • Having to pay back any money you got that you weren’t eligible for
  • Facing criminal charges

It’s also illegal to use your Families First EBT card at liquor stores, casinos, strip clubs, and other prohibited places. If you use your card at one of these locations, you could face penalties.

Criminal Penalties

In New Jersey, welfare fraud is usually charged as a third-degree crime. That means you could get 3-5 years in jail and fines up to $15,000. But there are other criminal penalties too:

  • Fourth-Degree Crimes – up to 18 months in jail and $10,000 fines
  • Third-Degree Crimes – 3-5 years in jail and fines up to $15,000
  • Second-Degree Crimes – 5-10 years in jail and fines up to $150,000
  • First-Degree Crimes – 10-20 years in jail and fines up to $200,000

The specific penalties depend on how much money was involved in the fraud. Smaller amounts usually lead to fourth-degree charges. Larger frauds over $75,000 get first-degree charges. Fines usually increase with the amount of loss too.

There was a case in Passaic County where a couple was running a food stamps fraud scheme and stole $4.5 million [5]. They both got several years in federal prison and had to pay back all the money.

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Loss of Benefits

Folks convicted of welfare fraud in New Jersey lose their benefits for a period of time. This happens even if you don’t get jail time. The periods are:

  • 6 months loss for a first violation [4]
  • 12 months loss for a second violation
  • Permanent loss for a third violation

So if you commit welfare fraud, don’t expect to get any benefits for a while, at least 6 months if it’s your first time. Multiple frauds mean losing benefits for even longer.

Paying Back Benefits

Folks convicted of welfare fraud almost always have to pay back any benefits they got illegally. This can be in addition to fines and jail time. So you not only lose future benefits, but have to repay everything from the past fraud too. This can add up to huge amounts of money.

In that Passaic County case, the couple had to pay back the entire $4.5 million they stole [5]. Paying back illegally gotten benefits is standard in welfare fraud cases.

Other Consequences

There can be other consequences too for welfare fraud convictions in New Jersey:

  • May lose professional licenses like nursing, teaching, etc [6]
  • Difficulty finding a job if you have a criminal record
  • Damage to reputation, public embarrassment
  • Potential immigration issues if not a citizen

So welfare fraud can really mess up your life if you get caught. It’s not worth trying to cheat the system.

Defenses

There are some defenses that can work in welfare fraud cases:

  • You didn’t realize you were committing fraud, it was an honest mistake
  • You were entitled to the benefits and the state is wrong
  • The state didn’t follow proper procedures in your case
  • You were coerced or threatened into committing fraud

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the evidence against you and decide what defenses might apply. Don’t try to handle these cases yourself.

Get a Lawyer

If you’re being investigated or charged with welfare fraud, get a lawyer immediately. Never talk to investigators without your lawyer present. A conviction can ruin your life for years.

A lawyer can negotiate with prosecutors for reduced charges or dismissal. They know how to challenge the evidence and raise strong defenses. Don’t take chances with your future.

Facing welfare fraud penalties? Get an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer on your side right away.

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