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NY Penal Law § 158.20: Welfare fraud in the second degree

Welfare fraud is the crime of receiving public assistance benefits based on some type of fraudulent act, such as making false statements on an application for benefits, not reporting the receipt of another type of benefit such as workers compensation, or failing to report income. 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 receiving based on a fraudulent welfare act. Under New York Penal Law section 158.20 you could be prosecuted for welfare fraud in the second degree if you:

  1. Intentionally committed a fraudulent welfare act, and
  2. The value of the benefits received was over $50,000

A "fraudulent welfare act" includes presenting an application for a public benefit card knowing that the application contains false information, pretending to be another person in order to obtain public assistance benefits, or making a false statement in order to establish or maintain eligibility for public assistance benefits or in order 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.


Dom applied for and received several types of public assistance benefits including food stamps, temporary assistance, and medical assistance. He continued to receive benefits for almost 3 years. On his application Dom indicated that he was unemployed and had no income. However, Dom was self-employed and received a substantial income from his business. Dom could be prosecuted for welfare fraud in the second degree if the total amount of benefits he received exceeded $50,000.

Related Offenses
  1. Welfare fraud in the fifth degree: New York Penal Law section 158.05
  2. Welfare fraud in the fourth degree: New York Penal Law section 158.10
  3. Welfare fraud in the third degree: New York Penal Law section 158.15
  4. Welfare fraud in the first degree: New York Penal Law section 158.25

In order to convict you of welfare fraud in the third degree the prosecutor must be able to prove that you fraudulently received benefits that exceeded $50,000. If the prosecutor cannot prove the amount of benefits that you received fraudulently, then the court is likely to dismiss the charge. However, the prosecutor could still charge you with welfare fraud in the third, fourth or fifth degree.


As a class C felony, if you are convicted of welfare fraud in the second degree your sentence may include a prison term of up to 15 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 § 158.20: Welfare fraud in the second degree

A person is guilty of welfare fraud in the third 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 three thousand dollars.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are charged with welfare fraud in the second degree you should take it seriously. Not only could you end up in prison for up to 15 years 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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