Public assistance fraud cases, whether they occur in Miami or Broward, will usually begin with a letter from an investigating agency. This agency is usually DCF (Department of Children and Families). An investigator will attempt to make contact with you, the subject of the investigation, directly. If they don’t send a letter they may call.
The DCF investigator is a government agent. You are under no obligation to speak with them. The moment you are contacted by an investigating agency, you need to contact a criminal attorney right away.
Most of the time, people get themselves into trouble not by their actions, but by their words. If you failed to disclose income on your application for benefits and you admit to the investigator that you intentionally did this, you will likely be charged. An attorney can protect you from the investigator and create some distance, which will cause the agency to have to rely on their documents for proof of a crime. Public assistance fraud is an intentional act, so if you had sources of income that you failed to disclose, without your statement, the agency may not be able to tell whether this omission was inadvertent or intentional.
The investigating agency may spend several months reviewing your applications and communicating with your employer or former employer. This is legal. DCF investigators can contact your employer.
After several months, if DCF believes that a crime was committed, the case will be submitted to the State Attorney’s Office. If DCF believes that no crime was committed, the matter will either be resolved administratively (meaning that you will agree to repay any overpayments) or nothing will happen and your benefits will be reinstated.
If the State Attorney’s Office decides to charge you with a crime, one of two things will happen depending on where you are.
For Broward County cases, you will be arrested and taken to jail. You will post a bond and a court date will be set. Broward treats public assistance fraud cases the same as any other felony. Broward also does not offer PTI (Pretrial Intervention) for public assistance fraud cases. Usually, these cases are resolved with probation.
In Miami-Dade County, you will not be arrested by a police agency. Rather you will receive a notice to appear in court. However, at your court date, you may be taken into custody simply so that you can be booked. This is routine. If you have no priors and your restitution is under $5,000, you may be eligible to PTI.
If you have received a letter from a Florida agency investigating public assistance fraud, call me today.