38 year old mother of 14, Nadya Suleman, also known to the public as “Octomom,” is being charged with welfare fraud. Prosecutors in Los Angeles are charging her with welfare fraud after she allegedly earned $30,000 from appearances and working while she was receiving public assistance. She now faces two counts of perjury by false application and one count of aid by misrepresentation. If Sulemon is convicted of the crimes, she could be incarcerated for more than five years if her criminal defense attorney does not properly argue her case.
In January 2013, Sulemon applied for welfare in Lancaster, California. When she filled out her application, Sulemon “failed to disclose that she was also getting checks for personal appearances and residuals from videos.”
Public assistance like welfare or food stamps were put in place to help those who are needy. However, many people have been caught taking advantage of these types of programs, just like Sulemon. When someone attempts to defraud a public assistance agency, they are intentionally misrepresenting, concealing or withholding particular information in order to receive or get an increase in public assistance benefits. When this happens, DSS has a few options for how they will handle the issue. First, they may simply disqualify you from every receiving any type of benefit in the future. Next, if you have been receiving benefits due to a false application, DSS can make you re-pay anything you had been paid. Finally, DSS may decide to contact the district attorney in order to criminally prosecute you. DSS will likely investigate any suspicion of fraud and have their special investigation division (SID) contact you. They may also speak with your neighbors, employer or other people who may have information about you.
For those cases that do not warrant criminal prosecution, but have still raised red flags at DSS, the applicant will be charged with intentional program violation and a hearing will be scheduled. This would be considered civil fraud as opposed to criminal fraud. At the hearing, the issue at hand will be whether or not you intentionally misrepresented yourself in order to receive benefits. DSS will have to prove to the judge with clear and convincing evidence that you are guilty of the intentional program violation. Their burden of proof is rather heavy in assistance program fraud matters, so if there was no actual wrongdoing on behalf of the applicant, their benefits will not be discontinued. If the person fails to show up to their hearing, their benefits will be stopped. Another way this happens is if the applicant signs a waiver of the hearing. The waiver basically states that you accept that your benefits will be discontinued without having to admit to committing an intentional program violation. The waiver will not prevent any future criminal prosecution though, nor will attending the hearing.
The following is a list of fraudulent welfare program violations which can be reported:
1) Unreported income;
2) Hidden assets like bank accounts or property;
3) Unreported changes in household composition. For example, someone either moving out of or into the home where benefits are being paid;
4) False parental custody;
5) Unreported changes in costs of shelter or falsified shelter costs, and
6) SNAP benefit trafficking. In other words, trading EBT cards (food stamps) for cash, drugs, etc.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the industries most victimized by fraud are the banking and financial sector, government and public administration, and manufacturing. In fact, even when companies discover fraud has taken place, 40 – 50% of them never recover the losses. The ACFE also reported that, although fraud can occur on all levels of a company’s hierarchy, it is usually managers and executives who end up committing the fraudulent schemes. When welfare fraud in each state is examined, it is difficult to find data on any real numbers to show the extent of welfare fraud and the subsequent losses from those schemes. In fact, numerous reports from inspector generals have noted that improper payments to recipients were categorized as “eligibility and payment calculation errors” or “documentation errors,” as opposed to intentional violations by the benefit recipients. This would lead some to argue that, in order to combat fraud schemes, the actual perpetrator should be targeted rather than the beneficiary.
For those charged in any type of criminal case, it will be very important to speak with and hire criminal defense attorneys who completely understand all the issues and complexities that go along with your charges. The Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyers at The Mace Firm spends a significant amount of time in criminal courts throughout all over the United States. There are criminal defense attorneys all over the country, but few are like those at our firm who practice criminal defense in Charleston, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island, Surfside Beach, Columbia and several other areas.
If you or someone you know is facing federal criminal or state criminal charges, you will need to speak with an experienced Myrtle Beach criminal attorney. Criminal defense attorneys at The Mace Firm is ready to speak with you about your case. Call one of our criminal defense attorneys to schedule your free consultation.