If you are under investigation in the State of Florida for public assistance fraud (welfare fraud), which may include receiving benefits such as food stamps (SNAP), child care assistance, Medicaid, and cash assistance (EBT), you will likely be notified by the Department of Children and Families that your account has been flagged for fraud. If criminal fraud is suspected, the investigation will be handed over to the Department of Financial Services (DFS).
Once you are made aware that you are under investigation, that is the time to retain an attorney. While it may be possible for the investigation to be resolved prior to the filing of any criminal charges (a non-criminal repayment program called Administrative Disqualification), in some instances, a felony charge, or charges, pertaining to public assistance fraud are filed by the State Attorney. These charges can include Welfare Fraud, Grand Theft, Organized Scheme to Defraud, as well as any others that may be relevant to your specific set of facts.
It is important to know that agencies such as DCF, DFS, and even State Attorneys' Offices are often investigating allegations that took place years ago. For example, you may receive a notice in 2020 that DCF is reviewing an allegedly fraudulent public assistance application from 2016. This is not at all uncommon.
While it is distressing to know that you are under criminal investigation, understand that the ability of the government to do anything about it rests on whether the Statute of Limitations - or the passage of time - allows it.
Fraud-related offenses have a 5-year statute of limitations in Florida. That means that the State has only five years from the last date of alleged fraudulent activity to bring charges against you.
Prosecutors and investigators are not always mindful of the Statute of Limitations, so it is important to be represented by a competent attorney who can be ready to raise that as a defense. If it is not raised, a prosecution, even a guilty plea, can go forward. Imagine being convicted and being ordered to pay tens of thousands in restitution when you didn't have to?
If you are under investigation for public assistance fraud, do not wait Contact me immediately to discuss your options.