A NY Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains Consequences of Social Security and Welfare Fraud
The Social Security Administration pays out benefits to retirees, to dependents, and to the disabled and the SSA’s benefits program is an important part of the social safety net. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is also a social welfare program aimed at providing for those who need income. TANF combines with other programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to take care of the needs of individuals and families who are below or close to the poverty level.
Some people, however, are accused of applying for Social Security Disability benefits or other welfare benefits when they do not legitimately qualify, or are accused of engaging in other types of scams intended to obtain benefits illegitimately.
Because many welfare programs are overseen or administered at the federal level, it is not uncommon for defendants accused of social security scams or welfare benefits fraud to face federal charges. However, states administer many social safety net programs for the federal government, and thus have their own criminal statutes addressing fraud in the system.
If you are charged with either a state crime or a federal crime in connection with benefits fraud, contact Bukh Law Firm, PLLC today. Our NY criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience providing aggressive and skillful legal representation to those accused of fraud crimes.
What Is Social Security or Welfare Benefits Fraud?
Social Security fraud is defined as making false statements on benefits claims; concealing facts or evidence affecting benefits; misuse of benefits by representative payees assigned to handle financial affairs for benefits recipients; and the purchase or sale of counterfeit or legitimate Social Security Cards. These and other types of fraud may be reported to, and investigated by, the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration.
Other types of welfare or benefits fraud may exist in connection with Social Security benefits, or with any government welfare programs. Some examples of welfare fraud scams and benefits fraud include:
- Exaggerating or inventing a disabling condition to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Working under the table when collecting means-tested benefits, including SSI, TANF, and SNAP.
- Selling SNAP benefits for cash.
- Lying about individual or family income on applications for means-tested benefits.
- Concealing assets when applying for means-tested benefits.
- Applying for benefits programs multiple times using different identities.
- Exaggerating the number of dependents or family members when making a claim for welfare benefits.
- Failure to report drug convictions when applying for welfare.
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Any situations in which false statements are made on benefits applications, or any situations in which benefits are obtained due to the provision of misleading information, can be considered a form of benefits fraud that can lead to serious criminal charges.
Penalties for Social Security Scams or Welfare Scams
State and federal laws can both criminalize welfare fraud and Social Security scams. In the state of New York, Article 158 of the Penal Code addresses many different crimes a defendant can be charged with including welfare fraud in the first through fifth degrees, or criminal possession of public benefits cards in the first through fifth degrees. The amount of money a defendant is able to obtain as part of a welfare fraud scam is going to determine what level of penalties are faced for the particular crime.
At the federal level, defendants may be charged with various offenses under 18 U.S. Code Section Chapter 47 related to making false statements to collect federal benefits, and may also be charged with federal identity theft offenses in situations where aliases are created to collect additional benefits.
Charges of mail fraud and wire fraud are also a real possibility after accusations of social security fraud or welfare fraud are made. 42 U.S. Code Section 608(s) also makes clear that any individuals whose benefits are reduced as a result of an act of fraud are not eligible to receive increased benefits under any other means-tested federal welfare programs or public assistance programs.
How a NY Fraud Defense Lawyer Can Help
You do not want to lose access to federal benefits, or to lose your freedom and be forced to pay back funds because of accusations made against you. You need to be aggressive and strategic in responding when accused of any type of welfare benefits scams. Call Bukh Law Firm, PLLC when you are under investigation or facing state or federal charges so you can begin the process of building an effective defense.