In Florida, the terms “Public Assistance Fraud” and/or “Welfare Fraud” are used to describe a variety of different types of unlawful behavior and conduct which is meant to begin receiving, continue to receive, misappropriates, attempts to misappropriate, aids or abets in the misappropriation of or use the Federal or State Funded Public Assistance Program or benefits such as:
- Welfare / Food Stamps
- Medicare / Medicaid
- Cash assistance programs
As outlined in Section 414.39, Florida Statutes, welfare fraud can take a variety of forms, each with its own factual components and proof requirements.
Examples of Fraudulent Practices
Florida Statute 414.39 (1)(a)
You can be charged with Fraud if you fail, by false statement, misrepresentation, impersonation, or other fraudulent means, to disclose a material fact used in making a determination as to such person’s qualification to receive public assistance under any state or federally funded assistance program. For example, if you write in your application that you have no income, a debilitating illness or children that don’t exist.
Welfare fraud can be charged as a crime if the person receiving the benefit fails to disclose a material fact. To prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the state attorney must show that the defendant
- Knowingly failed to disclose a material fact by false statement, misrepresentation,, impersonation or other fraudulent means
- The fact was used to determine qualifications to receive aid or benefits; and
- The aid or benefits came from a state or federally funded assistance program.
Welfare Fraud- Aiding or Abetting
Even if you are not the person who is receiving the benefits, but rather you are alleged to have helped someone obtain public assistance benefits when they otherwise are not eligible for them, you can be prosecuted under the “Aiding and Abetting” section of Statute 414.39. The State Attorney has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Knowingly aided or abetted another person in failing to disclose
- A change in circumstances in order to obtain or continue to receive aid or benefits to which he or she is not entitled, or
- A material fact by false statement, misrepresentation, impersonation, or other fraudulent means, and the fact was used to determine qualifications to receive aid or benefits
- The other person received benefits to which he/she was not entitled
- The aid or benefits came from state or federally funded assistance program.
Welfare Fraud- Change in Circumstances
Another way to be charged under this statute is if you are currently receiving benefits, but due to a change in circumstances, your eligibility would be terminated. Examples of changes in circumstances would be if you inherited money, won the lottery you or your spouse got a new job earning more money. By failing to report your new circumstances and continuing to receive benefits under previous status, you could be charged with a crime.
It is very important that you keep detailed records of all contact with public assistance. Many of the forms used and information submitted to make a claim are done online. Many times, persons receiving benefits and experience a favorable change in circumstances will contact their public assistance online or by telephone to notify of the change. Due to poor funding and staffing, these officers sometimes do not receive the message or the computer systems used do not register that notice was sent indicating the change in circumstances. The result is that there is no record in the file of any notification, and the information will be presented to the state attorney’s office for prosecution. Keeping good records of all of your contact could be the difference between a criminal charge and an easily solvable administrative issue.
Contact a Broward County Public Assistance Fraud Lawyer
A case involving any public assistance fraud can subject you to harsh penalties including jail, probation, fines and the loss of any public assistance. Anyone facing these serious charges needs to retain experienced, knowledgeable and accessible legal representation to ensure their rights are protected.
The Office of Attorney Grant Schwarz has been representing criminal defense clients since 1979. Lead Attorney Grant Schwarz is rated as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by National Trial Lawyers, and ready to take your case on and start fighting to defend your rights today. Contact the office of Attorney Grant Schwarz if you or someone you know has been charged with a Florida Fraud Crime.