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SAN DIEGO WELFARE FRAUD LAWYER

WHAT IS WELFARE FRAUD?

The falling budgets in California State and County’s have increased the oversight for programs like public assistance, welfare and other aid. Often people who left the state years ago are looking for a welfare fraud attorney when they discover they have an arrest warrant. Local investigators for the Health and Human Services agency and the District Attorney are looking with extreme detail at every person who has ever received aid from the government.

Several federal and state programs, collectively known as welfare, are available to California residents who have trouble making ends meet. Other assistance and benefits can be awarded in the form of food, cash, and housing. Applicants for these government programs are carefully screened to ensure no one is cheating the system. This screening is very effective at stopping those who commit welfare fraud, but sometimes the authorities will accuse someone who is innocent or who unknowingly commits the offense.

People who benefited from CalWorks, Calfresh, and Housing assistance such as Section-8 should be on high alert. The reporting requirements of household income and accurately reporting the number of children in a home are more important than ever. Many of those charged with a crime don’t realize that the documents they submit to the county for aid are legally binding. Almost every packet is signed under penalty of perjury.

Those who are found guilty of welfare fraud are often given harsh sentences that include steep fines, restitution, ineligibility for other government programs and even incarceration. You can also be found guilty of ancillary crimes, such as theft, grand theft, and perjury. All of which are felonies and carry additional criminal penalties. If you or someone you know is accused of welfare fraud, an experienced welfare fraud attorney will help you beat the case or receive a less severe sentence.

UNDERSTANDING WELFARE FRAUD: What Welfare Programs Are Available?

In California, welfare is available through five primary programs:

  • California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) – provides cash assistance to low-income families with children.
  • CalFresh – CalFresh is California’s food stamp program, which provides a benefit that pays for food based on income and family size.
  • Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) – GAIN is a job program for those in need of work and those seeking jobs with higher pay.
  • Medi-Cal – California’s Medicaid program provides health insurance and other healthcare benefits to low-income adults and children.
  • In-home services – Many in-home services are available to those in need. Services such as, substance abuse treatment, mental health management, and domestic violence counseling.

WHY DID THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY SEND ME A LETTER?

The biggest shock a person can receive is a letter indicating they are being charged with a crime. Anyone who gets a letter from the DA for welfare fraud will learn how serious this offense can be. The charges for welfare fraud are considered felonies; obtaining aid by misrepresentation. Basically what is being alleged is that someone got money, food or housing aid by lying.

Although welfare fraud is covered under federal law, most states have their own statutes. Each state defines what it is, the severity of each type of offense and the maximum punishment that can be given to those who are guilty. In California, this can be found in the Welfare & Institutions Code 10980.

WHO IS AFFECTED BY WELFARE FRAUD?

Welfare fraud is a crime that affects everyone in society, not only the government, as many people believe. The entire population suffers when this type of fraud is committed. For example, welfare fraud depletes the funds available for the people who truly need them. It can cause lawmakers to tighten regulations or create new laws that limit who receives benefits. Because the state doesn’t want to leave the needy in desperate situations, the only solution is to raise taxes, which creates an unfair burden on taxpayers in every bracket.

Welfare fraud can be done in two different ways: Internally and by recipients. Internal fraud occurs when workers for government agencies in charge of welfare programs knowingly provide benefits to people who do not qualify. More often than not, welfare fraud is performed by those who receive the benefits.

Recipient fraud can be committed in several ways, but the most common are as follows:

  • Providing false information on an application for welfare benefits or making false statements during an interview. Some people lie about their income in order to receive benefits while others may lie about their current employment status, personal assets or marital status.
  • Failing to provide timely updates on changes that affect the status or benefits of a welfare recipient – Most welfare programs require participants to update the appropriate agency should income reach a certain level or other relevant changes occur.
  • Filing multiple claims – Multiple claims are sometimes filed by a single person using fake names or stolen identities. It is also common for people to try to file multiple claims using their own information in more than one state.
  • Making illegal transactions – Welfare fraud may occur when a person illegally buys food stamps from another individual or sells his or her food stamps to others.
  • Electronic fraud – Welfare fraud that involves electronically altering facts or receiving electronic payments may carry additional penalties.

HOW DO AUTHORITIES DETECT WELFARE FRAUD?

Welfare fraud can be discovered in numerous ways. Prosecutors may receive information from internal investigators, agency investigators or the general public. Hotlines are available and widely used to report any instances of fraud that may have been witnessed or suspicious activity that may lead to fraud.

When the authorities have what appears to be a case of welfare fraud on their hands, an official investigation begins, and the suspicious parties are contacted. A series of questions are usually asked to determine the identity and to extract a possible confession of guilt. This information is then compiled and handed over to the district attorney. If the district attorney believes enough evidence exists, a warrant is issued for the arrest of the person or people accused of welfare fraud.

Prosecuting Welfare Fraud

Many jurisdictions in California prosecute welfare fraud very aggressively. They want to send a message to others who are committing fraud or thinking about it. They will be punished to the full extent of the law should they get caught. In some cases, innocent people are accused, and when this happens, having a San Diego criminal defense attorney experienced in welfare fraud can be extremely helpful in maintaining innocence and avoiding a false conviction.

If strong evidence exists against someone accused of fraud, and he or she doesn’t think it is possible to maintain innocence, paying back the money immediately may lead to a lenient sentence. However, some judges give weighty sentences even to those who are sorry and have paid back the illegally obtained benefits.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I’M CHARGED?

Felony fraud, like all felony cases, has serious punishments associated with it. Depending on the level of alleged theft or fraud the government can ask for state prison time up to three years. However, most clients will not fall into this category. Quick action and strong negotiation can prevent any long-term consequences for your record. Felony convictions can trigger deportation proceedings for non-citizens. Those with professional licenses such as nurses and brokers can lose their license through disciplinary hearings.

If you are already being investigated by the public assistance fraud unit then you are likely to be charged with felony offenses. San Diego Fraud Attorney George Gedulin describes the process, “Once you receive a letter charging you with a felony the investigators have already completed their investigation. Any statements you made in interviews or over the phone will be included in the large volume of evidence presented against you.” Often times people feel that if they are making payments back to the County through revenue and recovery they will not have any legal issues. This is WRONG.

Making payments back to the county simply will not stop a criminal case from going forward. Anyone who made admissions of submitting false information to the county to obtain aid will be charged.

Our office has defended those charged with welfare fraud for many years.

HOW IS THIS CASE DEFENDED?

Often a person who receives public aid will receive a letter from HHSA requesting updated information on employment, household records or to verify past applications. Every person receiving aid must submit quarterly reports about their need for assistance and show they qualify for these programs. Anyone who is contacted by a fraud investigator should seek counsel from an attorney immediately. Often an investigation will stay within the agency and will not be treated as a criminal case. If a case does rise to a criminal matter the file will go to the public assistance fraud division of the prosecutor’s office.

Our San Diego criminal defense attorneys are often the only defense you have against a government machine that is well funded and relentless. The tools of the State and County to destroy reputations and careers are unfortunate outcomes of falling government budgets. Don’t let your past force you into a hopeless or diminished future.

HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF?

Investigators from the prosecution's office will seek statements and admissions from you as soon as a case is open. You have your rights and should exercise them. You are never required to make statements to investigators. Anything you tell an investigator will likely be recorded and used in a criminal case against you. Seek legal counsel and review your own records. Your liberty and family’s future are at stake. Welfare fraud is a felony offense and is often charged with other offenses like perjury.

WHY IS THIS A CRIMINAL CASE?

Most of our clients did in the past or now receive some financial assistance from the county. Either through CalWorks, CalFresh, or Section-8 HUD, these families seek assistance because they have nowhere else to turn. The county has a large group of investigators that work directly for the prosecutor’s office. Investigators seek out instances of fraud. The legal issues in these cases come when the investigator for the agency thinks there were fraudulent statements made in obtaining aid. The accusations made by the District Attorney are quite simple; the person receiving aid made false statements to the county agency who was providing assistance.

These false statements can take many forms:

  • Under-reporting of income
  • Failing to disclose members of household who are employed
  • Claiming aid for more children than permitted
  • Falsifying employment information
  • Not providing accurate account of household expenses
  • Giving false information about medical or other disabilities

BOOK & RELEASE

The Book and Release that is often mentioned in the letter from the DA’s office is always required in a felony case. Once you have been criminally charged the court requires you to go to the local jail and submit to booking by the Sheriff. This is done for individuals who were not actually arrested by police and processed through jail. This process, unfortunately, creates an arrest record for all offenses charged. Regardless of how your case is resolved, the booking process will create a record of arrest on any detailed background check.

CONTACT A SAN DIEGO WELFARE FRAUD ATTORNEY

Hiring a San Diego welfare lawyer is the most effective way to fight accusations of welfare fraud. Several defense strategies are already in place and have been used extensively by welfare fraud lawyers in such cases. A few of these strategies are as follows:

• No fraudulent intent – If an attorney can show that you did not intend to defraud a welfare agency, you may be found not guilty.
• Insufficient evidence – An attorney may convince a judge that there is not enough evidence available to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
• Mistakes – Some welfare fraud claims come from false accusations or cases of mistaken identity.

If you or someone you know has been accused of welfare fraud, contact a San Diego welfare fraud lawyer as soon as possible by calling (858) 281-4605. There is not a moment to waste.

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