Schemes to defraud involving public government assistance programs carry life-changing penalties. The United States imposes extensive prison time and fines on those convicted due to the billions of dollars lost to welfare fraud every year. In fact, in the year 2014 alone, reports indicated that the United States suffered a $59.6 billion loss due to welfare fraud operations. That sum is greater than the budget for several programs combined including Head Start, Child Care, LIHEAP, Lifeline, Job Training, WIC, and Child Nutrition.
Welfare fraud, as you can see, is a significant issue in the United States. That is why any allegation of welfare fraud could possibly lead to a lengthy prison sentence and steep conviction fine. If you or someone you know is under investigation for welfare fraud, it’s crucial you secure experienced legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your rights and future.
Texas Welfare Fraud Defense Lawyer | San Antonio, TX
The criminal justice system reserves harsh penalties for individuals engaging in types of welfare fraud. In some cases, these schemes to defraud are intentional by the individual. However, it’s not uncommon for an individual to face welfare fraud charges even if they had no intent to defraud the government for assistance. Regardless of your circumstances, contact Goldstein & Orr for an experienced Welfare Fraud attorney prepared to help.
With 70 years of combined experience, our attorneys have the skills, resources, and network needed to take on your complex welfare fraud case. Call Goldstein & Orr today at (210) 226-1463 to schedule your first consultation with one of our knowledgeable white collar crime attorneys. Goldstein & Orr has a location in San Antonio, but we accept clients throughout the State including Bexar County, Travis County, Williamson County, Gonzalez County, Hays County, Kerr County, Kendall County, Medina County, Harris County, Blanco County, and more.
What is Welfare Fraud?
The United States government, as well as state and local municipalities, offer assistance programs to individuals and families who qualify. The purpose of these programs is to ensure the individual is able to afford basic living expenses including food, utilities, and/or housing. These government assistance programs–also known as welfare, public assistance, or public benefits—require applicants to prove they qualify by presenting certain information including their age, income, disability, or another status.
Listed below are several examples of federal government benefits programs that may be subject to schemes to defraud.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
According to 42 USC Section 608a, it’s unlawful to intentionally misrepresent material fact in order to receive benefits or to increase existing benefits. If convicted, the alleged offender will automatically lose all present and future public assistance benefits for one year. A second conviction will result in a two-year ineligibility, but if the alleged offender has three convictions they will be automatically barred from public assistance programs indefinitely.
In addition, the federal government may charge you with mail fraud in relation to welfare programs under the 18 U.S. Code Section 1341. The reason for this is that mail fraud pertains to fraud committed through the transferring of physical documents. In some cases, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office will charge an individual with wire fraud under 18 U.S. Code Section 1343 if the commission of fraud occurred through electronic communications such as a computer.
Can You Go to Jail for Welfare Fraud?
The short answer is, yes, it’s very possible. The penalties for the crime will heavily depend on the jurisdiction of the case. Federal cases of welfare fraud are commonly charged as mail or wire fraud under the U.S. Code. Both mail and wire fraud carry harsh penalties including up to 20 years in prison and a fine determined by the court.
However, if an individual violates Sec 33.011 of the Texas Penal Code, then the case will be prosecuted by State attorneys. According to the statutes, any person who alters, uses, or transfers a SNAP electronic benefit transfer card unlawfully will face a class A misdemeanor. In Texas, a class A misdemeanor carries up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
If the value of the SNAP benefit card is over $200, then the crime will be reclassified as a third-degree felony. The maximum sentence for a third-degree felony under Texas law includes a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a $10,000 fine.
Possessing a SNAP electronic benefit transfer card unlawfully and without proper authorization is also a crime if the offender knowingly redeems SNAP assistance program benefits for purposes not authorized by Texas law. An offense under this section is classified as a Class A misdemeanor and a third-degree felony if the amount redeemed was $200 or more.
Welfare Fraud Laws | U.S. Code – Visit the official website for 42 USC 608a to read the statutory language surrounding welfare fraud. Access the site to learn the elements of welfare fraud, ineligibility of public assistance benefits after a conviction, and what is defined as a welfare or public assistance program where Federal funds are appropriated.
Quick Facts About Government Benefits Fraud – Visit the official website for the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) to read a chart detailing quick facts and figures surrounding welfare fraud and other public benefit assistance crimes. Access the site to learn offender characteristics, relative punishments given, sentences relative to the guideline range, and infograms relaying this information.
Food Stamps Fraud Lawyer, San Antonio TX
If you or someone you know has been arrested or is under investigation for welfare fraud or food stamps fraud, contact Goldstein & Orr immediately. Our legal team has the knowledge and experience needed to take on any case involving fraud, including those related to government programs. We will work tirelessly to ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your case utilizing our 70 years of combined experience.
Call Goldstein & Orr today at (210) 226-1463 to set up your first consultation with Goldstein & Orr.