Food Stamps fraud is one of the most commonly investigated types of public benefits fraud in New York these days. In New York City, the Human Resources Administration is spending more resources on food stamps fraud than, for example on Medicaid fraud. Folks investigated for Food Stamps fraud always ask what penalties they face. Let’s take a look at this step by step.
Food Stamps fraud, put simply, is getting the food stamps benefits for which you are not entitled. Eligibility for FS depends on your household income. Most fraud investigations focus on people misrepresenting their income (or their spouses’ income). If you are caught cheating, the government will estimate how much you received in these benefits and will want you to return the money by way of paying restitution. Just like in other types of public benefits fraud, there are two possible scenarios. You can have your case resolved administratively, without criminal charges, or you can be prosecuted.
If you resolve your case administratively, there really are not any penalties. You will be allowed to pay restitution and the case will be closed without any record. The problem is when the case goes to the District Attorney’s Office. Here you are going to face repercussions. You will be arrested and charged with multiple felony counts. These include Grand Larceny, Welfare fraud, and Filing of a False Business Document. Criminal Food Stamps fraud cases can be resolved in many ways. If you have defenses, you may try your case and be acquitted. If you are convicted after trial, you will have a permanent felony conviction record and may even face jail time. the outcome of each case depends on many factors such as the amount of fraud, your criminal history, your particular conduct relating to the case, etc. For example, a single mother who is legally married with her husband not living with her, who didn’t disclose his income will be treated by most judges differently from someone who owns multiple businesses, has six-number income, lives in a mansion, and drives flashy cars.
You can also negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor that can eliminate the risk of going to jail or having a felony conviction. Sometimes, you can even avoid having any criminal conviction, if your defense lawyer knows what he or she is doing.
There are other, less known penalties associated with food stamp fraud. For example, non-citizens convicted of food stamps fraud can be deported from the US. Those with professional licenses and certificates can also face professional disciplinary charges. A good example is NYC teachers accused of public benefits fraud, such as food stamps or Medicaid. Even if the case is resolved in a way that does not leave a person convict, such as a plea to disorderly conduct, the Board of Education will still press disciplinary charges against the teacher.
Over the years, I have handled hundreds of public benefits fraud cases in New York, many of them in criminal courts, and I can tell you that with the right approach, there are certainly many ways to prevent the most serious consequences of being charged with a crime. If you have received a letter from the Bureau of Fraud Investigations informing you that you are being investigated for Food Stamps fraud, call us today at (212) 577-6677 to set up an immediate consultation before you contact the investigator.