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Public assistance fraud - also known as welfare fraud - involves knowingly making a false statement or failing to disclose a material fact while applying for government benefits in order to obtain a larger amount of public assistance than the person was entitled to.
Examples of public assistance fraud in Florida include:
- Lying about earned income
- Lying about the number of people residing in a household
- Failing to disclose a job
- Failing to disclose a member in a household that earns income
- Fraudulent possession or using an electronic benefits card (EBT card)
The penalties imposed for convictions for fraud crimes can be severe, including probation, fines, and incarceration. In addition, a conviction for fraud is an aggravated felony if the loss to the victim exceeds $10,000. If a non-U.S. citizen is convicted of an aggravated felony, he will be deported from the United States. You should contact an attorney with experience in both criminal defense and immigration law for further legal advice.
Attorney for Public Assistance Fraud
If you were arrested for public assistance fraud in Miami, Florida, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney that handles fraud cases. A knowledgeable attorney can discuss your potential options in your case, including possible plea resolutions, possible defenses, motions issues, and the benefit/risk of going to trial.
Attorney E.J. Hubbs is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law by the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar requires all board-certified criminal trial lawyers to try a minimum of 25 jury trials to verdict, pass a board certification exam, and receive an endorsement from four attorneys and two judges. Hubbs Law Firm handles all types of fraud cases in Miami-Dade County, South Miami, North Miami, Hialeah, Miami Gardens, Miami Beach, Kendall, Homestead, and Doral, as well as other cities and areas in the Greater Miami Area.
Penalties for Public Assistance Fraud
Public assistance fraud can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case.
The most common charge of public assistance fraud under Florida Statute 414.39 requires the state of Florida to prove a person knowingly:
- Fails - 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
- Fails to disclose a change in circumstances in order to obtain or continue to receive public assistance to which he or she is not entitled or in an amount larger than that to which she is entitled
- Aids and abets another person in the commission of any such act
The severity of the penalty for violating this statute depends on the illegal amount of public assistance obtained by the person.
If the amount of loss is:
- Less than an aggregate value of $200 in any 12 consecutive month period, the person commits a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.
- An aggregate value of $200 or more, but less than $20,000, in any 12 consecutive month period, the person commits a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in the Florida state prison and a $5,000 fine.
- An aggregate value of $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000, in any 12 consecutive month period, the person commits a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in the Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine.
- An aggregate value of $100,000 or more, in any 12 consecutive month period, the person commits a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in the Florida state prison and a $10,000 fine.
Defenses to Public Assistance Fraud
If you were charged with public assistance fraud in Miami, you should not assume your case will result in a conviction.
There are numerous legal defenses to public assistance fraud including:
- Lack of Knowledge: The state must prove that you “knowingly” made a false statement or “knowingly” failed to disclose a material fact. If you did not have the knowledge, possibly because of a mistake, then you could be legally not guilty of the crime.
- Lack of a Material Fact: The state must also prove that any fact that was not disclosed must be material. If the fact did not result in a change of qualifications or benefits or resulted only in a minor change, then it might not be material. If a non-disclosed fact is not material, then you are legally not guilty of the crime.
- Lack of Federally or State Funded Program: If the assistance was privately funded, rather than funded by a state or federal government, you cannot be convicted of public assistance fraud.
- Identity: A requirement in every criminal case is that the prosecution proves that you are the one that committed the crime. Since most public assistance fraud cases involve proving identity through paperwork, rather than a witness testifying that he saw the defendant commit the crime, the state could have a problem proving you were the person that actually filled out the public assistance application.
Find a Public Assistance Fraud Attorney in Miami, FL
If you were charged with public assistance fraud in Miami, FL you should contact Hubbs Law Firm immediately. Fraud crimes carry severe penalties including incarceration, probation, and heavy fines. You need aggressive legal representation. Our founding attorney, E.J. Hubbs, defends clients charged with all types of fraud in Miami and throughout Miami-Dade County, including Hialeah, Miami Gardens, Miami Beach, Kendall, Homestead, North and South Miami, and anywhere else in the area.
At Hubbs Law Firm, your first consultation is always free. Call us today to schedule your free consultation at (305) 570-4802.
- Division of Public Assistance Fraud- The Division of Public Assistance Fraud (PAF) investigates all public assistance fraud allegations including fraud involving cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, disaster assistance, social security, and disability.
- Florida Department of Children and Families — Provides information on public assistance in the state of Florida including eligibility for benefits, how to apply, and how to report fraud.
Attorneys E.J. & Erika Hubbs
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