Public assistance helps American citizens who are struggling financially to make things meet. If the system is manipulated for a personal benefit, then you could be charged with a crime. Welfare fraud, also known as public assistance fraud, is a serious white-collar offense in Florida with life-altering consequences upon conviction.
Welfare fraud is committed in various different ways which all end in a personal benefit. Some examples include making a false statement for the program’s eligibility, failing to notify the appropriate agencies about a change in circumstances or forging/trafficking food stamps. Doing any of these can lead to a welfare fraud conviction, which means expensive fines you must pay out-of-pocket as well as time in jail or prison. If you or someone you know has been charged with welfare fraud, it’s crucial that you contact an experienced defense attorney.
Welfare Fraud Defense Attorney in Broward County, FL
Has a fraud investigator from the department of public assistance approach you recently? Have you been accused of lying on your application or other related welfare documents? If so, then it’s within your best interest to gain legal representation with Meltzer & Bell. We have been practicing law and defending clients charged with financial crimes for decades.
Meltzer & Bell will do whatever necessary to fight for your rights. You can reach us by calling (754) 755-8554 and setting up your first consultation free. Meltzer & Bell has clients throughout the greater Fort Lauderdale area including Coral Springs and Hollywood.
Overview of Welfare Fraud in FL
- Florida Laws for Welfare Fraud
- What Are the Penalties for Welfare Fraud?
- Statute of Limitations for Welfare Fraud
- Additional Resources
Florida Laws for Welfare Fraud
Public assistance fraud can be committed in various methods, but it normally incorporates being dishonest or deceptive to receive benefits for you or someone else in some way. Florida Statutes Section 419.39 states a person is guilty of public assistance fraud if they:
- Make a false statement, impersonation or misrepresentation when asking for public assistance or any other federally funded assistance program;
- Fail to notify the appropriate agency of a change in circumstances such as address change or income change so you can continue to receive public assistance; or
- Aid and abet another person into committing any kind of welfare fraud.
It’s also a crime to fraudulently obtain or use food stamps. These are government vouchers for those in the public assistance program that can be traded for grocery goods. In Florida, it’s illegal to obtain your food stamps by:
- Forging them;
- Altering them;
- Sell or make fraudulent food stamps
- Attempt to alter or forge food stamps;
- Attempt to use fraudulent food stamps;
- Traffic food stamps to other people; or
- Aid and abet another person into receiving food assistance benefits fraudulently
Florida defines the term “traffic” in this context as:
- Any buying, stealing, exhaling or selling of food assistance benefits for cash or goods. This includes information such as electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards, personal identification numbers (PINs), EBT card numbers, or other identifying information for your food assistance benefits.
- Attempting to buy, exchange or steal food assistance benefits for a personal benefit;
- Exchanging guns, ammunition or explosive or illegal drugs for food assistance benefits;
- Purchasing food with food assistance benefits and then reselling it; or
- Purchasing food with food assistance benefits and then exchanging that food for cash or items of some sort
What Are the Penalties for Welfare Fraud in Florida?
Committing public assistance is a huge risk because of the serious penalties under Florida law if convicted. Welfare fraud can result in steep fines that you’ll be paying for years and lengthy imprisonment terms. That is why it’s highly encouraged you have legal representation to help you build a formidable defense against these charges.
The consequences for committing welfare fraud depend on the value of the benefits used within the last 12 consecutive months. Listed below are the penalties in Florida for committing welfare fraud.
|Amount of EBT||Offense Level||Fine||Jail/Prison Time|
Less than $200
One year in jail
|More than $200, but less than $20,000.|| |
Five years in prison
|More than $20,000 but less than $100,000|| |
15 years in prison
More than $100,000
30 years in prison
Statute of Limitations for Welfare Fraud in FL
The majority of Florida offenses have a statute of limitations the court must follow. A statute of limitations is simply a deadline for the prosecution to file formal charges against a person for a crime. If the District Attorney’s Office fails to file the charges by the set time, then they will be parred from ever prosecuting the accused for that crime.
It’s important for the court to maintain a statute of limitations for some crimes so they can preserve the integrity of the evidence and eyewitnesses. The longer a crime goes unsolved, the likelihood of the evidence deteriorating increases. Florida determines a crime’s statute of limitations by the crime’s offense level. Since welfare fraud can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony, so the statute of limitations can vary depending on the situation. Listed below are the different statute of limitations for welfare fraud in FL.
- First-Degree Misdemeanor – 2 Years
- Third-Degree Felony – 3 Years
- Second-Degree Felony – 3 Years
- First-Degree Felony – 4 Years
Florida Welfare Fraud Laws – Visit the official website for Florida’s legislature to find more information about public assistance and other types of government assistance fraud. Access the statute to learn more about the elements of the crime penalties, and other related offenses.
ACCESS Florida – Visit the official website for the Florida Department of Children and Families to learn more about the Automated Community Connection to Economic Self Sufficiency (ACCESS) program, which teaches family how to be financially independent. Find more information about the different programs and how you can apply.
Lawyer for Welfare Fraud in Broward County, FL
Have you been accused of welfare fraud? If so, then we urge you to secure legal representation as soon as possible. Having a skilled attorney on your side like the ones at Meltzer & Bell can make a drastic difference in your case. Our attorneys have been practicing defense for years and want to use our skills to help protect your rights.
Meltzer & Bell has represented numerous people accused of fraud and will work tirelessly to assist you. Call us now to schedule a free consultation at (754) 755-8554. We accept clients throughout the greater Fort Lauderdale area including Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach.