Food Stamp Fraud
As lawyers, we sometimes take for granted the complexity of our legal and government systems. While we spend our days pouring over complex statutes in search of defenses for our clients, it is sometimes important to stop and think about how absurdly complex the system is made to be. Many competing political, social, and economic forces overt the course of decades and sometimes centuries have molded our legal system into what it currently is. One program that has been created to a socioeconomic necessity has been the food stamp program. While the program itself has evolved beyond issuing actual stamps to those who qualify, the program still goes by the same moniker. Under the food stamp program, those who live below a certain income line and meet other qualifying can receive monetary assistance from the government in order to afford food and necessities from the government.
Any time the government offers assistance in the form of money, the government will also implement programs designed to investigate and prosecute anyone who they suspect to be taking advantage of that program. The overzealous nature of government oversight, as usual, will end up dragging both guilty and innocent people into its web. The complex and draconian nature of applying for and receiving public assistance benefits like food stamps makes it very easy to make mistakes or overlook important details in one’s application. It may not be until years later that an applicant is notified about such mistakes resulting in the possibility of a criminal investigation. If you or a loved one has been investigated for or charged with food stamp fraud, you should not hesitate to contact a dedicated Sarasota criminal defense lawyer to help build your defense.Elements of Food Stamp Fraud
Food stamp fraud, along with several other public assistance fraud offenses are prohibited pursuant to Florida statute 414.39. Chapter 414 is the section of Florida law that establishes public assistance benefit programs such as food stamps, child care, medicare, and medicaid. Of course, the statute includes a provision harshly punishing those that the state believes to be fraudulently receiving such public assistance benefits. In order to prove a suspect guilty of food stamp fraud, the prosecution must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. They must prove that the defendant knowingly made a false statement, misrepresentation, or omission in their application for food stamps. The State may also prove the offense by showing that a defendant who was already receiving food stamp benefits did not disclose a change in circumstance so that he or she could continue to receive food stamp benefits even though the change in circumstance would be disqualifying. If you have found yourself in a similar situation, contact a skilled Sarasota criminal defense lawyer right away to learn what defenses you may have.
There are many examples of the misrepresentations that could result in criminal charges. The state could allege that you underreported your income to get below the required income barrier. You could be accused of failing to report the presence of another income earner in your household who might earn income under the table. The department of financial services has been known to send investigators to physically surveil a suspect’s home to see who is living there and whether they are bringing in any income. Because of the relative ease of applying for public assistance like food stamps via forms over the internet, many people are more easily entranced by the simplicity of hiding little things here and there in order to qualify for additional public benefits. However, one should not underestimate Florida’s desire to get its money back. If you are charged with food stamp fraud, speak to a skilled Sarasota criminal lawyer today.Speak to our Lawyers
The attorneys at Hanlon Law have years of experience representing clients through all phases of the public assistance fraud investigation and prosecution. Call us today for a consultation at 727-897-5413.