Public Assistance Fraud
The median household income in St. Petersburg as of 2000 was $34,597. However, about 9.2% of families were below the poverty line that year. Public assistance fraud often occurs in connection with state programs administered by the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education's Office of Early Learning, and the Agency for Health Care Administration, as well as federal programs. For example, charges may be brought for developing a scheme to defraud Social Security Disability Insurance, or in connection with trafficking in Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits (food stamps). Charges can also result from fraudulent activity in connection with disaster assistance benefits if these are funded through the state or federal government. St. Petersburg public assistance fraud lawyer Will Hanlon strongly supports the rights of the accused, and he provides a thorough, tenacious defense for charges of fraud involving public assistance programs.Understanding Public Assistance Fraud
Public assistance fraud arises from not disclosing or misrepresenting an important fact. For the former type of fraud, the state needs to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly did not disclose a material fact through fraudulent means, including impersonation, misrepresentation, or a false statement. It also needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this fact was used to decide whether you should get benefits or help, and the benefits or help arose through a state or federally funded assistance program.
You can also be charged with public assistance fraud if you knowingly fail to tell about a change in circumstances so that you can receive public services or benefits. The prosecutor must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly did not disclose your change in circumstances to obtain help or benefits that you did not deserve, and the help came from a public assistance program funded by the state or federal government. The first element of the crime can be challenging to prove, and a public assistance fraud attorney can help St. Petersburg residents try to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.
If the public assistance fraud relates to food stamps or medical services, it is prosecuted under Florida Statutes section 414.39(2). The prosecution must show that beyond a reasonable doubt, you knowingly used, possessed, acquired, altered, forged, or trafficked (or tried to do any of these things) a certificate of eligibility for public medical services or the associated ID card, and these actions were not legally allowed.
In order to successfully bring a public assistance fraud charge against you, the prosecution needs to show that you had the intent of suppressing the truth or causing a deception. As with most white collar crimes, you must have acted intentionally rather than due to a mistake or accident.
Whether the charge will be for a misdemeanor or felony depends on the value of the services or benefits that you received. If the value is less than an aggregate of $200 in 12 consecutive months, the crime will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if the value is $200 or more in 12 months, you can be charged with a third-degree felony that carries penalties of up to five years in prison, five years on probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Some common arguments that a St. Petersburg public assistance fraud attorney may use to defend a charge, whether during the pre-filing stage or at trial, turn on intent. For example, you may have failed to disclose a material fact, but if it was not a knowing failure to disclose, the prosecution may not be able to prove its case. Similarly, if the information was not material, there may not be a case. There may be another innocent explanation for your actions, or in some cases, it may not be possible for the state to show that the non-disclosed fact was actually used to determine your eligibility for benefits.
In other cases, there may be procedural defenses, such as a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment right to be safe from an illegal search or seizure. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible if you believe that you are being investigated for this type of fraud.Hire a Public Assistance Fraud Lawyer in St. Petersburg
If you are charged with public assistance fraud or another white collar crime, you should consult our firm. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing criminal defense representation since 1994. We are dedicated to guarding the rights of the accused. You can call Hanlon Law at 727.897.5413 or complete our contact form online.