Law and Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

What Is Welfare Fraud?

When you think about crime, you probably think violence -- murders, robberies, that kind of thing. However, a lot of crime is committed by people you would never consider criminals, and who don't see themselves that way.

Every day, regular folk at all socioeconomic levels commit fraud on the government by misreporting information to avoid making payments or to receive benefits. Welfare fraud is among these crimes, and the consequences when caught can be severe. Let's look at a recent Connecticut case that illustrates welfare fraud.

Mere Misreporting

According to NBC News, the Ontario County Department of Social Services in Connecticut this month charged 23-year-old Jasmine Sparrow with welfare fraud and 12 counts of offering a false instrument. The basis for the charges is not an act but an omission.

Sparrow failed to report important information on her welfare application, omitting child support payments received between September 2012 and November 2015. This reportedly resulted in an over grant of about $2,800 in public assistance and food stamps. The young woman now faces criminal prosecution and the 12 counts against her are likely based on each time she falsely filed.

Matters of Scale

On a much grander scale, federal officials earlier this year indicted 11 leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) for conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. They are accused of swindling millions of dollars from the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is intended to help low-income individuals and families buy food. But church leaders allegedly redistributed and used that money for the church's needs.

What these two cases show is that fraud is considered a big deal by prosecutors whether it is committed on a grand scale or a much smaller one, and that it's relatively easy to become a fraudster. Any time you omit or falsely state information on an application to the government or a required filing, like taxes, you commit a crime. The consequence, beyond facing prosecution, imprisonment, and fines, is that you can be declined benefits in the future.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are applying for a government benefit, need help with your taxes, or are otherwise concerned about an administrative matter, talk to a lawyer. It's never too late to set things straight if you are in a tight situation. Get help. Consult with counsel.

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