WHAT IS WELFARE FRAUD
Welfare is the program(s) that help the members of the public who are unemployed or underemployed. California has a few programs for those who are eligible—some of those programs are as follows:
- CalWORKS also known as California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids—this is the state’s primary welfare program. CalWORKS provides cash for needy families who need help with shelter, clothing, food, and even medical care in the short term.
- CalFresh, better known as the food stamp program is another welfare program in California.
- Medi-Cal is a program that provides public health insurance coverage for people who can’t afford it. Even though MediCal is a welfare program, it is prosecuted under separate laws.
Welfare fraud occurs when someone makes a false a false statement or statements, doesn’t report important information when applying for public programs such as the ones listed above and in doing so receives benefits that they should not be receiving. In California, most instances of welfare fraud fall under Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC. An individual would violate this law by purposely giving the wrong information or not providing relevant information to a welfare program in order to get or keep benefits. They could also apply for the benefits under more than one name or by filing many applications under different names, or by using, transferring, buying or selling authorizations to receive food stamps or actual food stamps.
HOW WELFARE FRAUD GETS DISCOVERED
Prosecution agencies get their welfare cases from many different sources. Many District Attorney Office’s have a special unit dedicated to prosecuting these types of offenses. Prosecutors also receive referrals from the public—the public can report welfare fraud by calling hotlines or submitting the information via a website. There are departments of social services who are people who oversee the disbursement of welfare monies. The investigations usually begin with the investigators contacting the person whom they suspect of welfare fraud and then asking them about the benefits they are currently receiving and about the information that was used to receive those benefits. Once an investigator puts all of the information they have gathered together, they hand their file over to the District Attorney’s Office in order to see if there is sufficient evidence for formal charges to be filed. If there is ample evidence, the District Attorney will file criminal charges under the Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 and maybe even under another related section. If there is not sufficient evidence, they may refer the case back to the investigator, simply reject the case because there is not enough evidence, or place the vase in the welfare fraud diversion program.
RECIPIENT AND INTERNAL WELFARE FRAUD
Recipient fraud is the fraud that is committed by those individuals who get or attempt to get welfare benefits that they are not entitled to. The most common ways that individuals get those benefits is by claiming that they are a single parent while the other parent still lives in the home, failing to report additional income, submitting a claim for a child who does not live in the home, submitting a claim for nonexistent children or children who are not eligible or even collecting benefits from multiple states. Internal welfare fraud occurs when an employee of a government agency that distributes welfare benefits collects or attempts to collect benefits from that agency. Most of the time this occurs when the worker puts fake information on an application for their friends or family and then splits the money received with that person.
The penalty a person will receive will depend on which section of the Welfare and Institutions Code of 10980 that they violated. Some are misdemeanors, some are felonies and others are considered wobblers meaning that they can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the case and your criminal history.
It doesn’t matter what law the prosecutor has charged you with if they can’t prove fraudulent intent. So an attorney could argue that the information that was incorrect on your application was just a simple mistake— you didn’t realize that you had to report your additional income, or that you simply forgot to update your application when one or more of your children became ineligible for benefits. An attorney can also argue that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction, that it was a case of a mistaken identity or even a false accusation.
READY TO FIGHT FOR YOU
If you or a loved one is facing a welfare fraud charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.