The Federal government has set several aid programs that target needy citizens that do not have enough financial ability to cater to their upkeep. One such program is the issuance of aid through social welfare means, requiring the persons in need to meet specific requirements.
Since the funds that help the government agencies to have such operations are sourced directly from taxpayer’s revenue, there is a need for strict systems to be set in place. The formulation of a system helps to prevent loopholes that promote possible loss of the funds through illegal means.
Sometimes, the rules set in place to regulate the issuance of welfare support are rigid and may lead to an unfair conviction of an innocent party, who may have made a genuine mistake or even taken advantage of during the application process.
If you find yourself facing criminal charges involving welfare fraud, feel free to contact the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. We are well versed in the field of criminal defense and strive to get our clients the best possible arguments in court, to ensure that you do not suffer under unjust systems of conviction.
Types of Welfare Provided by the Government
For the government to help a person who could be facing this charge understand what it entails, several definitions and instances seamlessly apply to the description of welfare fraud.
First is to recap the purpose of the welfare funds, which are set in place in order for the government to assist persons in need of financial aid for their daily expenditure, an important aspect needed for their upkeep. The offense, therefore, occurs when a person can acquire the government benefits by the use of fraudulent means, most frequently developing and becoming deceptive.
The benefit given under the welfare support is identified into different groups, each involving a remedy for a specific need that a citizen with no means of proper livelihood may require.
Food is one of the welfare benefits that are commonly distributed. Food is an essential human requirement that is paramount for survival. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the federal body in charge of the supply of welfare food to the people in need. It has several heads of operations to oversee the supply operations.
Housing is also issued as welfare support in Orange County as in other cities and states in general in the country. The support targets people who may be rendered homeless by certain contributing factors such as loss of jobs, loss of a breadwinner, or even house eviction by an abusive partner or parent.
Moreover, the government provides General Assistance welfare funds that assist adults in need, who lack alternative means of livelihood or employment at that particular time. The assistance is often in the form of cash, to be collected at designated welfare offices at prescribed times, in following the rules set in place.
Another outstanding welfare support in Orange County is a medical cover to people who do not make enough to afford insurance, as a result of low income, known as the Medi-Cal welfare fund in the state of California.
Actions Resulting in Welfare Fraud
All these forms of support require the person in need to make applications, resulting in assessments of whether the person has met all the prerequisite requirements. If they are met, the information qualifies him or her to access the welfare funds or goods provided.
A suspect of the crime of welfare fraud may, therefore, give inaccurate information that is manipulated to fit the provided list of requirements that should be met for the welfare funds to be released.
One of the most common ways to commit the crime is by collecting benefits from multiple states in the country by engaging in identity theft. The crime happens when one registers their details in more than one state, possibly by using different names or other vital information like the social security number.
The offender, more often than not, is indulged in severe cases of multiple identity thefts, which facilitate the acquisition of the new names and social security numbers. The multiple welfare accounts will channel numerous funds into the offender’s accounts, giving him or her access to large amounts of money and other benefits like a medical cover. The creation of multiple accounts involves an element of fraud, often defined as obtaining goods or services by pretenses.
Another possible way of committing the offense is by making a false claim of having children. These particular means are especially prevalent among marriage or relationship partners who require additional sources of cash. They may reach out to known corrupt agents who work in federal offices, for example, those who work in record-keeping offices, for the addition of false records that indicate that they have children.
The fraud is enabled by the fabrication of false certificates of birth for the offenders, commonly planned to be used as evidence of the claim of having children. Having obtained these records unlawfully, an offender could quickly gain access to the welfare benefits specially provided to needy parents, to help them with their children’s upkeep as well as their own.
Besides, persons who are involved in the selling of food stamps that are provided by government welfare also engage in welfare fraud. The act of selling the stamps could be orchestrated by a person who is rightfully entitled to receive aid, and who may, therefore, assume that he or she has a right to make the sale. The problem arises because of the recipient of the food stamp, who is usually an entirely different person and is not entitled to the benefits of welfare support food stamps.
The government still undergoes losses by the use of the food stamps by a different person, who is not the intended benefactor of the food seals. Fraud, therefore, ensues in that way.
The unlawful sale may also be made by someone who is in the business of fabricating the food stamps by illegal means to seek profit. He or she may sell them to unsuspecting buyers, who may also be found to be at fault for attempting to exploit government welfare without proper requirements and entitlement to do so. The sale, consequently, promotes fraud, whether the counterfeit stamps work or not.
A failure to report a newfound source of income or employment to support yourself also amounts to welfare fraud. Looking back at the function of welfare support, the primary purpose of its provisions is to provide help to needy citizens, who may have no alternative means of survival. However, the government expects that an individual will make a personal effort to enhance their lives, relying on the welfare provided.
As a result, once the person receiving the welfare can stand on their own and benefits from their salaried employment, he/she is required to notify the welfare offices of that development. The act of notification is a virtue that allows other needy persons who may be in a horrible situation also to benefit, just as the person with new sources of income have in the past.
The requirement of notification is also essential because the welfare funds are limited and only serve too many citizens at once. In this light, if you do not report your development and continue to benefit from the provided welfare, the government considers it a fraud, as you are under the pretenses of neediness.
The type of fraud also extends to persons who fail to report personal assets that are in their possession at the time within the period they are benefitting from the welfare support.
Scamming of unaware citizens also amounts to welfare fraud. The offenders commonly disguise themselves as government social workers and could ask you for your information details that are required for a successful application for welfare benefits. If one is not careful enough to detect sketchy tactics and means used by the people orchestrating the fraud, they may easily fall victim to disclosing their information to the fraudsters, which undesirably tie them to the crime as well.
The false claim of single parenthood will amount to welfare fraud as well. The government is prepared to provide support for single parents, who may be victims of the death of their spouses, who were the primary breadwinners of the family. The welfare is also intended to support spouses who flee from abusive relationships with their children to protect them but end up having a hard time because of a lack of funds. An offender is thus likely to create circumstances that lead a social worker who may inspect the conditions at home to seem as if he or she is a single parent. The social worker may, therefore, give the green light to the welfare offices to make approvals for the offender’s application, which are acquired by the described fraudulent means.
Government employees are also prone to the embezzlement of welfare funds, meant for the distribution to persons in need. Often, an employee will link and work with a third party who is not affiliated to government offices and can, therefore, promote the undetected flow of the funds into a different account. This type of fraud is severe, as an employee is taken to have earned the trust of such a government agency. Therefore, he or she is not expected to be involved in such operations. He or she may consequently face more severe penalties than an ordinary citizen.
Elements of the Crime of Welfare Fraud
For a court or jury to convict or acquit an offender for welfare fraud, it must establish several vital elements leading to the crime. The due diligence carried out by the courts is to prevent the establishment of any reasonable doubt as to why an offender should not be convicted. The prosecutor’s case relies on this aspect, and the endeavors to highlight elements of the crime. To enable a suspect facing these charges to prepare and understand what he or she may be up against, your Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm lawyer will help identify and analyze the elements.
Firstly, the prosecution must prove that the suspected offender had a conscious intention to commit the crime. In this case, the criminal intent for welfare fraud is the deliberate intention of a person to use pretenses to gain welfare benefits.
The prosecutor often does this by describing and bringing into light the actions of the offender. He or she focuses on events before the commission of welfare fraud. Several factors, like past web searches of other people’s personal information, could be brought to the attention of the court, to prove the intent to undertake in the fraud.
Also, the living conditions of a suspect could be an issue that is also brought up, in a claim that mentions a desperate need to improve those living conditions. The improvement may only be possible if the offender engages in the fraud.
On top of the mental intent, the prosecution needs to prove the element of the actual act or omission, leading to the crime. The element is known as actus reus.
A judge cannot convict a defendant without satisfaction that a chain of events leading to the act is not evident. The actions to be proven are those that result in the commission of the offense as described above, including but not limited to
- It was gaining access to innocent persons’ private information that leads to identity theft.
- Selling or using counterfeit food stamps to get free food services.
- Posing and creating different circumstances that infer you to be highly disadvantaged and in need of welfare benefits.
When these elements are satisfied, the court will be bound to convict. However, your attorney has to ensure that the claims are rightfully rebutted. Moreover, he or she must prove that the details of the crime are not tied directly to the defendant. The proof creates a strong defense for you.
Parties Involved In Welfare Fraud
The offenders involved in the crime who go undetected often leave certain innocent parties to carry the blame for the crime of fraud. The targeted groups of persons affected are:
- elderly persons
- people with permanent mental conditions
- disabled persons
- people who are not adequately aware of the importance of securing private information.
Despite the unfair nature of the liability placed on such persons, your defense attorney can help you bring up possible defenses and evidence against the claim brought forth by the prosecution.
The facilitators of the consulting law firm, including members of the I.T team, may also be able to track down the actual fraudster. Furthermore, the attorneys may record him or her as a pivotal witness to your case. They do this to rightfully prove your innocence in the crime. The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can be of great assistance in such an operation, that will create reasonable doubt not to convict.
The Law on Welfare Distribution and Penalties of Welfare Fraud
California law has created provisions for the welfare distribution process, as well as institutions tasked with overseeing the proper operation of the methods. The California Welfare Institutions Code provides for different institutions that are placed in distinct divisions. The first division is the administration of welfare and benefits, found under subsection 148-153.
This particular division is the most relevant to the context of welfare and welfare fraud, as it has set the rules and procedures to follow in the issuance of welfare benefits. It also highlights a principal requirement for any person or body that has the qualifications to request for any welfare benefits, should open, and maintain a separate bank account from the regular daily use account, if any.
Such a person or body shall also be expected to fully comply with the rules and provisions of the Uniform Supervision of Trustees for Charitable Purposes Act, that has laid out what may be considered for the acceptance and dismissal of a welfare request application.
The welfare code has classified the groups of people who are given priority to receiving benefits. They are listed in the different divisions of the law, and each has distinct purposes for the provision. One such group of people are welfare for the children’s division. Funds given are directed to the juvenile courts in California, so that development and improvement of services can benefit the young delinquents held in such institutions. Priority is also given to children who cross the Mexico border to enter the United States. They are often unaccompanied and may be at risk of trafficking or unfair detention.
These law provisions are made clear to the public so that they can rightfully deter any seeking individuals from arbitrarily applying for welfare benefits where they do not qualify.
Penalties of Welfare Fraud
The penalties are highly dependant on the circumstances surrounding the facts of the case, as well as if the defendant holds a previous criminal record often acting to their detriment.
The offense of welfare fraud may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor after those issues are adequately established and determined.
If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor charge, you may face a jail term of up to 12 months or a fine amounting to $1000. If a judge finds more incriminating evidence, he or she is at the discretion to issue both penalties against you.
Alternatively, if you are found guilty of welfare fraud amounting to a felony, you could end up in jail for three years, or face a fine penalty for a sum of cash amounting to $5000. Similar to the misdemeanor charge, the judge is in a position to issue both penalties against you.
For a case of a government employee found guilty of welfare fraud by embezzlement of public funds, you will face a detention penalty with a jail term of 3 years. However, if the amounts stolen amount to more than $65000, your jail term will significantly increase, and you could face an additional 1 to 4 years in jail, which in total amounts to a maximum 7-year penalty.
Possible Defenses to the Crime of Welfare Fraud
The crime of welfare fraud affords certain defenses, on the condition that the defendant acted innocently, or was not aware of the crime tied to him or her.
With these considerations in mind, a defense of the absence of men’s rea or criminal intent can be raised by your defense attorney. It is the strongest in the case of identity theft, whereby a defendant is not aware of the actual fraud ongoing. This is because the information used is stolen or obtained by deceptive means, which are not meant to lead the defendant to realize that it will be used to commit the crime. As a defendant, you do not have the requisite intent in this case for the conviction to ensue. Your attorney can present the relevant facts and evidence to prove that you were not in any way aware of the use of personal details to enable the crime.
Compulsion is also a possible defense in charges of the crime. The most practical example which has a high chance of acceptance in court is whereby a spouse is forcefully compelled by the partner to create false accounts or engage in other fraudulent actions, amounting to welfare fraud. The coercive force has to be exerted directly on the person who ends up committing the crime, for the defense to properly ensue. However, other circumstances are also acceptable as defenses of compulsion. An expert in the field of technology may be coerced into carrying out various technological operations that involve cyber trespass, to acquire information that will be used to be used by the coercer to force welfare fraud actions.
A defense of genuine forgetfulness and belief of legitimate input of information in the welfare of the application process can be admissible in court. The court accepts that human error is not to be dismissed, and will, therefore, listen to reasonable facts and circumstances that would lead to mistakes such as these. Typos are also common errors that may be registered in the records and be detected as fraudulent means of acquiring welfare benefits, usually not intended by the defendant. Your defense attorney will purpose to prove your innocence and prove the genuine nature of your claims.
Despite these defenses, the repayment of the amounts acquired by welfare fraud does not amount to an admissible argument in court. The intent and the actual action of committing fraudulent crimes are the only required elements to convict a defendant. As a result, the action of repayment is merely a mitigating factor that could reduce the sentences and penalties received.
Find a Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The crime of welfare fraud can result from very elusive and unclear circumstances, much of what is beyond your control. Most of these cases bring about the conviction of innocent persons who were taken advantage of by others. The real offenders manage to escape and leave the blame on the unsuspecting person. The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm attorneys are professionals in the field of criminal defense. We are committed to ensuring that you receive all the necessary and helpful legal assistance if faced with charges of welfare fraud. Contact us today at 714-740-7874.