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Welfare Fraud

Key Penal Law Provisions:
  • Welfare fraud in the fifth degree, PL 158.05, a class A misdemeanor
  • Welfare fraud in the fourth degree, PL 158.10, a class E felony
  • Welfare fraud in the third degree, P.L 158.15, a class D felony
  • Welfare fraud in the second degree (158.20, a class C felony
  • Welfare fraud in the first degree, 158.25, a class B felony

There are five degrees of welfare fraud crime in New York, and they are distinguished based upon the amount of public assistance benefits stolen from the government. Fifth-degree welfare fraud – a class A misdemeanor – applies to those that defraud local, state or federal assistance programs of any amount of money, whereas first-degree welfare fraud involves a million dollars or more over a period of time. The fraud can be accomplished by knowingly proffering false information in program paperwork or applications or by pretending to be somebody else (or somebody fictitious). Typically, defendants charged with this crime are forced to plead guilty to a lesser-included offense and pay restitution equal to the amount of money they took. However, some egregious offenders are also forced to serve probation or prison sentences for their actions.

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