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What Is Criminal Welfare Fraud?

In California millions of people receive some form of government assistance. This can range from cash aid, food stamps called Cal-Fresh and also housing assistance. No matter what the public assistance there are strict rules about receiving these benefits.

The Health and Human Services agency is tasked not only with providing assistance but tracking everyone who gets assistance. Any family or individual who gets financial assistance must sign form under penalty of perjury which deal with the household’s income and ability to provide for basic necessities.

Many of those same people who are receiving welfare fall under investigation for welfare fraud. The government has a specialized branch of investigators called public assistance fraud investigators. These agents investigate all possible cases of fraud against the public assistance program. Fraud can include a broad range of accusations including lying on an application, failing to report income or not reporting when you are no longer unemployed.

The people who get assistance are often the most at risk members of the community. Coming from domestic violence relationships and just trying to cobble a life together. However, the government does not take a kind view to any individual who misrepresents their situation, regardless of their need.

Beyond the public assistance fraud investigators is the involvement of prosecutors. In some cases a welfare fraud case will be sent to the district attorney’s office for a criminal case. If a criminal case is issued the charges and consequences can be serious.

Welfare Fraud raises two felony charges under the Penal Code and Welfare and Institutions Code. A person will likely receive a letter in the mail informing them they are charged with two felony offenses: PC 118(a) and WI 10980(c)(2). PC 118 is perjury by false statement. This offense relates to the signature pages on every welfare application which requires that all information given to the State is true and correct. WI 10980(c)(2) is a felony for receiving aid or public assistance by fraud. Making a misrepresentation about your financial situation or another member of your household can be charges as felony fraud.

In cases where the prosecutor charges the amount taken was over $950 there will also be a charge of PC 487 for grand theft. What can be so difficult for people facing a criminal welfare fraud case is that often they are no longer on assistance. The case can arise from applications made many years earlier. Any felony fraud case requires an appearance in court.

With any felony crime charge an appearance in court is only the start. As the District Attorney’s letter states most people will be required to submit to the book and release process. The book and release is an identification and fingerprinting with the Sheriff at the local jail. This book and release creates an arrest record for the felony charges. Even if your case is dismissed the record of arrest will be permanent. An arrest record can be very damaging to professionals or students who need to be licensed for their work. Nurses, teachers and other professions have extensive background checks that can reveal all past arrests.

The important thing to remember with any welfare fraud situation is not to delay. Everyone should be proactive and seek good legal advice. Speaking with a criminal defense lawyer who handles welfare fraud is a good first step.


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