Welfare benefits fraud is a hot button political topic, with lawmakers and researchers disagreeing on how widespread the problem actually is. While some people claim a quarter of all benefit funds are lost to fraud, others say it’s closer to 1% and that the number has never been lower. Regardless, everyone can agree that it does still happen and when someone is accused of this serious offense, it is critical they speak to a San Diego welfare fraud lawyer as soon as possible.
What is Welfare Fraud?
Fraud takes place with all types of government benefits, including Social Security, SNAP (often called food stamps), WIC, unemployment insurance, SSI (disability insurance), Medi-Cal and more. It can be performed by persons operating the programs and distributing benefits, but in most cases, it is performed by recipients of the benefits. Some of the most common ways people commit welfare fraud is by lying on program applications, applying for benefits under more than one name and by illegally using or transferring benefits.
In Southern California, we also have the unique problem of welfare fraud occurring when someone claims aid by saying they live in San Diego County when they actually live across the border in Tijuana. However it occurs though, those accused should always contact an attorney immediately.
Fighting the Charges with a Welfare Fraud Lawyer
Like most criminal charges, what you say in your defense can be used against you, so if you speak to police or investigators without your attorney, you may end up making things harder for yourself.
Penalties can vary greatly depending on the circumstances, but they can range from 6 months in jail and a $500 fine to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In most cases, recipients will also be forced to pay back all benefits they received, which can quickly amount to thousands of dollars. Additionally, those convicted are disqualified from ever receiving future benefits. It’s also worth mentioning that these charges are also filed alongside other offenses, such as forgery, providing false information to a government official, identity theft, grand theft and more.
As you can see, anyone charged with these serious offense should never attempt to defend themselves without a top San Diego food stamp fraud attorney at your side. Peter M. Liss offers competitive rates and accepts all major credit cards. Please schedule your free consultation in his North County or Central San Diego offices by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.
Creative Commons Image via Louise Gill