It is easier than you think to be charged with public assistance fraud in the State of Florida.
State agencies such as the Department of Children And Families (DCF), have in-house fraud investigators who look to see if applicants for benefits have been dishonest in the reporting of their assets and income.
Common forms of public assistance fraud include welfare fraud, food stamp fraud, child care credit fraud, and unemployment fraud.
People are caught committing public assistance fraud when they earn money that has not been reported to the agency as income. If you earn a sufficient amount of money, you are not entitled to receive public benefits. Public benefits are reserved for people who need them.
If you fail to disclose income or employment and the agency later discovers this, you will be subject to a criminal investigation.
The first thing that happens during a public assistance fraud investigation is a letter or phone call from the investigating agency. This investigator represents the government, therefore you are not required to speak with them. I cannot stress enough how many public assistance fraud cases are built on the confessions of accused people. Don’t give them more evidence than they may already have. Don’t say a word. Be polite, be respectful, but be assertive. You may tell them that you are going to be retaining a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will notify the investigator, informing them that you will not be giving a statement nor should you be contacted by the investigator.
The investigator will compile data, including tax records and employment records that may or may not reflect discrepancies with your application for benefits.
Many of these discrepancies could be the result of mistake or simple forgetfulness. That, by itself, doesn’t rise to the level of criminal fraud.
But if the investigator believes that a crime has been committed, they will submit their findings to the State Attorney’s Office and you may be arrested. Public assistance fraud is a third-degree felony. You may also face additional charges such as grand theft.
If you are under investigation in Miami or Broward for public assistance fraud, don’t wait until after you are arrested. Call me upon learning that you are the subject of an investigation.