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NY Penal Law § 158.10: Welfare fraud in the fourth degree

When thinking about the crime of theft, many of us tend to think of the crimes such as grand larceny, shoplifting and robbery. However, another type of theft is welfare fraud. It is a crime that involves stealing from the government. For example, if you make a false application for welfare benefits and receive them, you would have committed welfare fraud. There are five welfare fraud offenses in New York. The specific charge you will face depends on the amount of public assistance benefits you are accused of stealing from the government. Under New York Penal Law section 158.10 you could be prosecuted for welfare fraud in the fourth degree if you:

  1. Intentionally committed a fraudulent welfare act, and
  2. The value of the benefits received was over $1,000

A "fraudulent welfare act" includes engaging in any of the following acts:

  1. Presenting an application for a public benefit card knowing that the application contains false information,
  2. Pretending to be another person in order to obtain public assistance benefits, or
  3. Making a false statement in order to establish or maintain eligibility for public assistance benefits; or to increase or prevent the reduction of public assistance benefits.

For purposes of the welfare fraud statute "public assistance benefits" means money, property or services provided from the federal, state or local government and administered by the department of social services or social services districts.


Teresa Niver applied for and received public assistance benefits from the Schuyler County Department of Social Services. However, when she applied she failed to report the income she was receiving from workers compensation benefits. As a result Niver was convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree, as the amount of benefits she received exceeded $1,000. People v. Niver, 41 AD3d 961 (N.Y. App. Div., 2007).

Related Offenses
  1. Welfare fraud in the fifth degree: New York Penal Law section 158.05
  2. Welfare fraud in the third degree: New York Penal Law section 158.15
  3. Welfare fraud in the second degree: New York Penal Law section 158.20
  4. Welfare fraud in the first degree: New York Penal Law section 158.25

In order to convict you of welfare fraud in the fourth degree the prosecutor must be able to prove that your fraudulently received benefits in exceeded $1,000. If the prosecutor is not able to do that even if the prosecutor was able to prove that you did indeed receive benefits fraudulently, then the court is likely to dismiss the charge.


As a class E felony, if you are convicted of welfare fraud in the fourth degree your sentence may include a prison term of up to 4 years, a probation term of 5 years, and a fine. You will also be required to pay restitution in the amount of what you received fraudulently.

New York Penal Law § 158.10: Welfare fraud in the fourth degree

A person is guilty of welfare fraud in the fourth degree when he or she commits a fraudulent welfare act and thereby takes or obtains public assistance benefits, and when the value of the public assistance benefits exceeds one thousand dollars.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are charged with welfare fraud in the fourth degree is a felony, you should take it seriously. Not only could you end up in jail, you will have to repay the money you received. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors in violation of New York state law and federal law. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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