California's Welfare Fraud Laws
Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC

California law addresses two main types of welfare fraud: recipient fraud and internal fraud.

Welfare recipient fraud, the more common form, is when people provide false or incomplete information in order to obtain welfare, food stamps or Medi-Cal benefits to which they are not legitimately entitled.

Internal welfare fraud is when government employees play a role in assigning or distributing welfare benefits to recipients whom they know are ineligible.

Most welfare fraud charges are wobblers, which means prosecutors have discretion to file the cases as felonies or misdemeanors. A conviction can mean probation, fines, restitution, and possible time in jail or state prison. But if you can pay back all or a substantial part of the money, this can get you leniency...and sometimes a dismissal of the charges altogether.

In article below, our California criminal fraud attorneys1 explain California's welfare fraud laws by addressing the following:

1. What is California Welfare Fraud?

1.1. A brief overview of California's welfare programs

1.2. The legal definition of welfare fraud in California law

1.3. The investigation process

2. Common Examples

2.1. Recipient welfare fraud

2.2. Internal welfare fraud

3. Legal Defenses & Strategies

3.1. You didn't have fraudulent intent

3.2. Insufficient evidence

3.3. False accusations / mistaken identity

3.4. Restitution Agreements

4. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

4.1. The different offenses of Welfare and Institutions Code 10980, California's welfare fraud law

4.2. Additional penalties

4.3. Restitution in lieu of criminal charges

5. Related Offenses

5.1. Penal Code 487 PC California's grand theft law

5.2. Penal Code 470 PC California's forgery law

5.3. Penal Code 118 PC California's perjury laws

5.4. Penal Code 182 PC California's conspiracy law

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

In addition, you may also find helpful information in our related articles on California's Fraud Laws; White Collar Crimes; Penal Code 503 PC Embezzlement; Identity Theft; Penal Code 487 PC Grand Theft; Penal Code 470 PC Forgery; Penal Code 118 PC Perjury; Nolo Contendere "No Contest" Pleas; California Jury Trials; Wobblers; Felonies; Misdemeanors; Crimes of Moral Turpitude; How Criminal Convictions Affect Professional Licenses; Deportation and Removal for Aliens and Immigrants; and California Legal Defenses.

1. The Legal Definition of Welfare Fraud
in California

Generally speaking, welfare refers to public assistance programs that are designed to help the unemployed and underemployed.

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1.1. A brief overview of California's welfare programs

California's welfare benefits are available to eligible participants in the form of

  • CalWORKs (California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids...formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children "ADFC"...CalWORKs is the state's primary welfare program that provides short-term cash aid for needy families who require assistance with housing, clothing, food, utilities and/or medical care),
  • CalFresh (more commonly referred to as the food stamp program, CalFresh issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy food),
  • in-home services, addressing issues such as

    • domestic violence (counseling, medical and public health information, parenting skills training, financial planning and relocation services),
    • substance abuse (evaluation and treatment), and
    • mental health (assessment, case management, treatment and rehabilitation for those suffering from depression, anxiety, etc.),

  • Greater Avenues for Independence "GAIN" (provides mandatory support to CalWORKs participants to help them find employment, remain employed and advance to higher paying jobs),
  • General Assistance or General Relief "GA/GR" (provides support to poverty-stricken adults who are not supported by other public assistance programs), and
  • Medi-Cal (Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program that provides public health insurance coverage for low income adults and children.  Despite the fact that Medi-Cal is a type of welfare benefit, Medi-Cal fraud is prosecuted under separate laws which are discussed in our article on California Medi-Cal Fraud.)

With respect to CalWORKs and CalFresh, most benefits are now distributed electronically.  These types of cash aid are essentially wired into an account that is linked to an Electronic Benefits Transfer "EBT" card that the recipient uses much like a debit card.  Paper checks and food stamps are becoming obsolete.

1.2. The legal definition of welfare fraud in California law

Welfare fraud takes place when people make false statements or fail to report important information when applying for these types of public programs in order to receive benefits to which they are not otherwise entitled.

Most instances of California welfare fraud are prohibited under Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC.  You violate this law by

  1. deliberately misstating information or failing to provide relevant information in order to obtain, retain or increase undeserved welfare benefits,
  2. applying for benefits under more than one name or by filing multiple applications to obtain multiple benefits, and/or
  3. using, transferring, acquiring, purchasing, selling, possessing, altering or counterfeiting
(a) authorizations to receive food stamps, or

(b) actual food stamps.2

1.3. The investigation process

Local prosecuting agencies receive their California welfare fraud cases from a number of sources.  Many local district attorneys' offices (including the Los Angeles District Attorney and the Fresno District Attorney) have their own welfare fraud units which are dedicated to prosecuting these types of offenses.

Prosecutors receive referrals from

  • the public "report welfare fraud" hotlines and websites that are provided by their offices,
  • local "department of social services" agencies who oversee disbursement of welfare benefits,
  • tips received on statewide public reporting hotlines, and
  • any other agencies that suspect possible welfare fraud.
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Welfare fraud investigators will begin their investigations by contacting the named welfare recipients to question them about the benefits they are currently receiving and about the information they provided to obtain those benefits.  Investigators may also contact friends, co-workers, family, and neighbors to obtain additional information that may be useful to prove or negate the fraud allegations.

On a side note, unannounced home visits or witness interviews oftentimes reveal additional issues, such as

Consequently, agencies such as

may also become involved in on-going investigations.

Once an investigator compiles all the relevant information, he/she presents it to a deputy district attorney who will review it to determine if a criminal filing is appropriate.

If the D.A. believes there is enough information to prosecute, he/she will file criminal charges (typically under Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 and possibly under one or more related sections, discussed at length in Section 5. Related Offenses).  Otherwise, he/she will

  1. refer the case back to the investigator to gather more information,
  2. determine that there is insufficient evidence of wrongdoing and simply reject the case, or
  3. place the case in a welfare fraud diversion program, discussed below in Section 4.3. Restitution in lieu of criminal charges.
2. Common Examples of California Welfare Fraud

There are two main types of California welfare fraud:  recipient fraud and internal fraud.

2.1. Recipient welfare fraud

Recipient welfare fraud is fraud committed by those who receive...or unlawfully attempt to receive...welfare benefits to which they're not legitimately entitled.

Although there are a variety of ways to commit recipient welfare fraud, some are more common than others.  The most common examples of California welfare fraud take place when someone tries to obtain unlawful benefits by

  • claiming that he/she is a single parent while the child's other parent actually lives in the home (known as "absent parent living in the home"),
  • failing to report additional income or other benefits,
  • submitting a claim for a child who does not live in the home,
  • submitting a claim for fictitious or ineligible children, and/or
  • collecting benefits from another state in addition to those collected in California.

Examples of actual California recipient welfare fraud cases

Los Angeles - A husband and wife applied for cash-aid based on their alleged low income.  The couple failed to report that the wife owned a liquor store and recycling business.  She also drove a $76,000 luxury car, shopped at high-end department stores and had almost $150,000 hidden in her bedroom dresser. 3

Stanislaus County - A Modesto man deliberately failed to disclose a felony conviction that disqualified him from receiving the food stamps for which he applied.4

Ventura County - A Simi Valley woman used fake Social Security numbers to obtain almost $2,000 in cash aid and food stamps.5

Arizona / California - In addition to misstating her income and the number of children she had on ten different welfare applications, an Arizona woman deliberately failed to inform the state that she was already receiving substantial adoption payments in California.6

2.2. Internal welfare fraud

Internal welfare fraud takes place when an employee of a government agency that distributes welfare benefits attempts to (or does) collect or distribute unlawful benefits from that agency.

Most of the time, this "inside job" occurs when the eligibility worker falsifies applications for otherwise ineligible friends or family and splits the proceeds.  Workers may create fictitious children, make false claims about income or fail to report facts which would disqualify these friends or family from receiving legitimate benefits.

Example

Los Angeles - An eligibility worker for the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services was convicted for creating fictitious welfare cases for friends and family, setting up payments for ineligible and nonexistent children.  Her acts of internal fraud cost the county over $700,000.

Persons who are convicted of internal welfare fraud not only face fraud charges and a variety of additional related charges (discussed below in Section 4. Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing). They also face charges for embezzlement.

You violate Penal Code 503 PC California's embezzlement law ...also known as employee theft...when you unlawfully take money or other property that has been entrusted to you.7

This means that if you are a social services worker who helps control how welfare benefits are distributed--or who knows how to bypass some of the procedures that are otherwise necessary before benefits may be authorized--and you misappropriate those benefits, you face up to three years in the California state prison.8 And if you embezzle more than $65,000, you face an additional one to four year sentence.9

3. Legal Defenses & Strategies

Fortunately, there are a variety of legal defenses that an experienced California fraud defense lawyer can present on your behalf.  The following are examples of some of the most common.

3.1. You didn't have fraudulent intent

Regardless of which California fraud law prosecutors accuse you of violating, they can't convict you unless they can prove that you had fraudulent intent.  If the prosecutor can't prove that you acted with the specific intent to defraud, the judge will instruct the jury to find you "not guilty" of the charges.

This means that, for example, your California criminal defense attorney could argue that you

  • believed you submitted a legitimate claim for benefits (and any incorrect statements or omissions were inadvertent),
  • didn't realize that you needed to report lottery winnings, gifts, or an inheritance to the department, or
  • simply forgot to update your status once one of your children became ineligible for benefits.

3.2. Insufficient evidence

Let's say that you are accused of internal welfare fraud.  Your employer reported you because he noticed that

  • you had numerous duplicate files,
  • documents were often missing from your case files, and
  • you had suspicious contact with some of the applicants.

Despite the fact that this evidence seems incriminating, it's not conclusive.  And even if the evidence strongly suggests that you were embezzling funds, without actual proof, you should be exonerated of the offense.  Unless the prosecutor can prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (that is, to a moral certainty), you are legally entitled to be acquitted.

3.3. False accusations / mistaken identity

This defense works best with allegations involving internal welfare fraud, although it may be applicable to recipient fraud as well.

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Even if there are legitimate claims of welfare fraud, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are the guilty party.  You could be accused of internal welfare fraud.  Yet if the applicants are friends or family, they could be trying to take advantage of your position in the county.  Perhaps they submitted incorrect information on their applications and...because you are close...you simply assumed they were providing correct information and didn't take steps to verify it as you should have.

This type of negligence could potentially justify your losing your job. But it should not subject you to criminal liability.

Or let's say you are accused of recipient welfare fraud based on the fact that there is a fictitious child listed on your application.  Perhaps your live-in boyfriend altered your application before he submitted it on your behalf.

Or maybe someone submitted a benefits application using your name and Social Security number.  It may very well be that you are the victim of identity theft and that you had no knowledge that someone was illegally using your information.

You could even be falsely accused of this offense based on clerical errors. After all, governmental bureaucracies are notorious for making mistakes on a regular basis.

The bottom line is that there are a variety of reasons why you could falsely be accused of this offense.  Regardless of the reason, we have the inside knowledge and resources that allow us to investigate your case and demonstrate your innocence.

3.4. Restitution Agreements

Welfare fraud prosecutors are primarily concerned with recouping monies for the county or state. If you are in a position to repay all or a substantial part of the money you are accused of bilking, the prosecution is often willing to reduce the charge or agree to a light sentence

Example: Mary is accused of receiving $22000 in welfare benefits while not reporting that her boyfriend was working and living in the home. She's charged with felony Welfare & Institutions Code 10980. The D.A. offers her a deal. If she can repay $15000 of it, he will reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and not seek jail time. The judge continues the case for a year to allow Mary to work to pay this restitution. She pays off the $15000, earns a misdemeanor, and avoids jail.
4. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Your penalty under Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 will depend on which section of the code you violate.  Some are straight misdemeanors, some are straight felonies and others are what are called wobblers.  A "wobbler" is an offense that may be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the facts of the case, and
  2. your criminal history.

4.1. The different offenses of Welfare and Institutions Code 10980, California's welfare fraud law

Statements

If you are convicted of making a false or misleading statement in an effort to obtain benefits, you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $500 fine.10

Filing fraudulent applications

If you are convicted of filing a fraudulent application...either because you have filed multiple applications for the same person, because you have applied for aid for a fictitious person, or because you have applied for benefits using a false identity...you face a wobbler.  The felony is punishable by a maximum of three years in the California state prison and up to $5,000 in fines.  The misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.11

Obtaining or retaining benefits

If you are convicted of actually obtaining or retaining fraudulent benefits...and those benefits totaled $950 or less...you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $500 fine.  If the aid was more than $950, you face a felony, punishable by up to three years in the state prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.12

Regarding food stamps...

If you are convicted of engaging in any activity with unauthorized blank authorizations to participate in the food stamp program, you face a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.13

If you are convicted of using, transferring, selling, purchasing or possessing food stamps, electronically transferred benefits or food stamp authorizations in an unlawful manner...and the value of the food stamp benefits or authorizations is $950 or less...you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum $500 fine.  If the value exceeds $950, you face a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.14

Electronically transferred benefits

It is important to note that if you are convicted of committing welfare fraud...and the fraud (or attempted fraud) involved electronically transferred benefits...in addition to the penalties above, you face an additional and consecutive

  • one year of incarceration if the transfer of benefits exceeds $50,000,
  • two years if the transfer exceeds $150,000,
  • three years if the transfer exceeds $1,000,000, or
  • four years if the transfer exceeds $2,500,000.15

4.2. Additional penalties

In addition to the penalties noted above, a conviction for welfare fraud subjects you to

4.3. Restitution in lieu of criminal charges

Depending on the circumstances, there will be times when you may be able to repay your fraudulently obtained benefits without suffering a criminal conviction at all.  Many counties, including

  • Fresno,
  • San Diego, and
  • San Francisco

offer welfare fraud diversion programs.  Individual diversion programs will vary. But in general, they allow individuals (a) with little or no criminal history and (b) who have not deprived the county of too much money (Fresno, for example, sets the limit at $3,000) the opportunity to repay the money in exchange for a dismissal of the fraud charges.

Defendants must typically plead guilty to the charge.  If they successfully complete a diversion class and repay the money that they fraudulently obtained, the court will dismiss the charges. Otherwise the judge will pronounce judgment and impose a sentence.

And if prosecutors are unwilling to allow you to pay restitution in lieu of filing criminal charges, voluntarily repaying your ill-gotten benefits may convince the judge to reduce your ultimate sentence.

5. Related Offenses

Because California welfare fraud frequently involves allegations of theft, forgery, and perjury, prosecutors may file the following charges in addition to or in lieu of California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980.

5.1. Penal Code 487 PC California's grand theft law

Penal Code 487 PC California's grand theft law prohibits unlawfully taking another person or entity's property that is valued above $950.  "Property" includes money, labor, personal property or land.

This means that if you fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits that total more than $950, prosecutors could charge you with this wobbler, punishable by up to three years in the state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.18

5.2. Penal Code 470 PC California's forgery law

Penal Code 470 PC Penal Code 470 PC California's forgery law prohibits knowingly altering, creating, or using a written document intending to commit a fraud.  This means that if, for example, you

  1. apply for welfare benefits by signing someone else's name as the applicant, or
  2. counterfeit or alter food stamps or use food stamps that you know are counterfeit or altered,

prosecutors could additionally opt to file forgery charges.  If convicted of forgery, you face a wobbler, which is also punishable by up to three years in the state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.19

5.3. Penal Code 118 PC California's perjury laws

Penal Code 118 PC California's perjury law is a felony, subjecting you to up to four years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.  You violate this law when you deliberately give false information while under an oath to be truthful.20

This means that if, for example, you submit an application for welfare benefits

  • in a false name,
  • with a false social security number, or
  • with other intentionally falsified information in your application,

prosecutors could charge you with this felony.21

5.4. Penal Code 182 PC California's conspiracy law

Penal Code 182 PC California's conspiracy law prohibits conspiring to commit a crime.  If you conspire with another person...that is, make an agreement to commit an unlawful act...in order to obtain fraudulent welfare benefits you face a felony, punishable by the same penalties you face for being convicted of California welfare fraud.22

Conspiracy charges would most likely be filed in connection with an internal welfare fraud case where the employee was arranging for unlawful benefits to be distributed to his/her friends or family.

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC welfare fraud and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada's welfare fraud laws.  For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.23

Legal References:

1 Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud.  ("(a) Any person who, willfully and knowingly, with the intent to deceive, makes a false statement or representation or knowingly fails to disclose a material fact in order to obtain aid under the provisions of this division or who, knowing he or she is not entitled thereto, attempts to obtain aid or to continue to receive aid to which he or she is not entitled, or to receive a larger amount than that to which he or she is legally entitled, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and fine. (b) Any person who knowingly makes more than one application for aid under the provisions of this division with the intent of establishing multiple entitlements for any person for the same period or who makes an application for that aid for a fictitious or nonexistent person or by claiming a false identity for any person is guilty of a felony [that is, California welfare fraud], punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine; or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine. (c) Whenever any person has, willfully and knowingly, with the intent to deceive, by means of false statement or representation, or by failing to disclose a material fact, or by impersonation or other fraudulent device, obtained or retained aid under the provisions of this division for himself or herself or for a child not in fact entitled thereto, the person obtaining this aid shall be punished as follows: (1) If the total amount of the aid obtained or retained is nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less, by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and fine. (2) If the total amount of the aid obtained or retained is more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine; or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine. (d) Any person who knowingly uses, transfers, acquires, or possesses blank authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in any manner not authorized by Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 18900) of Part 6 with the intent to defraud is guilty of a felony [namely, California welfare fraud], punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (e) Any person who counterfeits or alters or knowingly uses, transfers, acquires, or possesses counterfeited or altered authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or to receive food stamps or electronically transferred benefits in any manner not authorized by the Food Stamp Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-525 and all amendments thereto) or the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. SEC. 2011 et seq.) or the federal regulations pursuant to the act is guilty of forgery. (f) Any person who fraudulently appropriates food stamps, electronically transferred benefits, or authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program with which he or she has been entrusted pursuant to his or her duties as a public employee is guilty of embezzlement of public funds. (g) Any person who knowingly uses, transfers, sells, purchases, or possesses food stamps, electronically transferred benefits, or authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in any manner not authorized by Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 18900), of Part 6, or by the federal Food Stamp Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-113 and all amendments thereto) or the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. SEC. 2011 et seq.) (1) is guilty of a misdemeanor if the face value of the food stamp benefits or the authorizations to participate is nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less, and shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and fine, or (2) is guilty of a felony [that is, California welfare fraud] if the face value of the food stamps or the authorizations to participate exceeds nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine. (h)(1) If the violation of subdivision (f) or (g) is committed by means of an electronic transfer of benefits, in addition and consecutive to the penalties for the violation, or attempted violation, of those subdivisions, the court shall impose the following punishment: (A) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), an additional term of one year in state prison. (B) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000), an additional term of two years in state prison. (C) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds one million dollars ($1,000,000), an additional term of three years in state prison. (D) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds two million five hundred thousand dollars ($2,500,000), an additional term of four years. (2) In any accusatory pleading involving multiple charges of violations of subdivision (f) or (g), or both, committed by means of an electronic transfer of benefits, the additional terms provided in paragraph (1) may be imposed if the aggregate losses to the victims from all violations exceed the amounts specified in this paragraph and arise from a common scheme or plan. (i) A person who is punished by an additional term of imprisonment under another provision of law for a violation of subdivision (f) or (g) shall not receive an additional term of imprisonment under subdivision (h).")

3 Taken from The California Department of Social Services "Welfare Fraud Stories" webpage.

4 See same.

5 See same.

6 See same.

7 California Penal Code 503 -- Definition.  ("Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been intrusted.")

8 California Penal Code 514 -- Punishment; determination of value; defalcation of public funds; disenfranchisement.  ("Every person guilty of [California] embezzlement is punishable in the manner prescribed for theft of property of the value or kind embezzled; and where the property embezzled is an evidence of debt or right of action, the sum due upon it or secured to be paid by it must be taken as its value; if the embezzlement or defalcation is of the public funds of the United States, or of this state, or of any county or municipality within this state, the offense is a felony, and is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison; and the person so convicted is ineligible thereafter to any office of honor, trust, or profit in this state.")

9 California Penal Code Section 12022.6 -- Taking, damaging or destruction of property; commission of felony; additional punishment.   ("(a) When any person takes, damages, or destroys any property in the commission or attempted commission of a felony, with the intent to cause that taking, damage, or destruction, the court shall impose an additional term as follows: (1) If the loss exceeds sixty-five thousand dollars ($65,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of one year. (2) If the loss exceeds two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of two years. (3) If the loss exceeds one million three hundred thousand dollars ($1,300,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of three years. (4) If the loss exceeds three million two hundred thousand dollars ($3,200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an additional term of four years.")

10 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (a), endnote 2, above.  ("(a) Any person who, willfully and knowingly, with the intent to deceive, makes a false statement or representation or knowingly fails to disclose a material fact in order to obtain aid under the provisions of this division or who, knowing he or she is not entitled thereto, attempts to obtain aid or to continue to receive aid to which he or she is not entitled, or to receive a larger amount than that to which he or she is legally entitled, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and fine.")

11 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (b), endnote 2, above.  ("(b) Any person who knowingly makes more than one application for aid under the provisions of this division with the intent of establishing multiple entitlements for any person for the same period or who makes an application for that aid for a fictitious or nonexistent person or by claiming a false identity for any person is guilty of a felony [that is, California welfare fraud], punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine; or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine.")

12 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (c), endnote 2, above.  ("(c) Whenever any person has, willfully and knowingly, with the intent to deceive, by means of false statement or representation, or by failing to disclose a material fact, or by impersonation or other fraudulent device, obtained or retained aid under the provisions of this division for himself or herself or for a child not in fact entitled thereto, the person obtaining this aid shall be punished as follows: (1) If the total amount of the aid obtained or retained is nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less, by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and fine. (2) If the total amount of the aid obtained or retained is more than nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine; or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine.")

13 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (d), endnote 2, above.  ("(d) Any person who knowingly uses, transfers, acquires, or possesses blank authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in any manner not authorized by Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 18900) of Part 6 with the intent to defraud is guilty of a felony [namely, California welfare fraud], punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.")

14 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (g), endnote 2, above.  ("(g) Any person who knowingly uses, transfers, sells, purchases, or possesses food stamps, electronically transferred benefits, or authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in any manner not authorized by Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 18900), of Part 6, or by the federal Food Stamp Act of 1977 (Public Law 95-113 and all amendments thereto) or the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. SEC. 2011 et seq.) (1) is guilty of a misdemeanor if the face value of the food stamp benefits or the authorizations to participate is nine hundred fifty dollars ($950) or less, and shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both imprisonment and fine, or (2) is guilty of a felony [that is, California welfare fraud] if the face value of the food stamps or the authorizations to participate exceeds nine hundred fifty dollars ($950), and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine.")

15 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (h), endnote 2, above.  ("(h)(1) If the violation of subdivision (f) or (g) is committed by means of an electronic transfer of benefits, in addition and consecutive to the penalties for the violation, or attempted violation, of those subdivisions, the court shall impose the following punishment: (A) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), an additional term of one year in state prison. (B) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000), an additional term of two years in state prison. (C) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds one million dollars ($1,000,000), an additional term of three years in state prison. (D) If the electronic transfer of benefits exceeds two million five hundred thousand dollars ($2,500,000), an additional term of four years. (2) In any accusatory pleading involving multiple charges of violations of subdivision (f) or (g), or both, committed by means of an electronic transfer of benefits, the additional terms provided in paragraph (1) may be imposed if the aggregate losses to the victims from all violations exceed the amounts specified in this paragraph and arise from a common scheme or plan. (i) A person who is punished by an additional term of imprisonment under another provision of law for a violation of subdivision (f) or (g) shall not receive an additional term of imprisonment under subdivision (h).")

16 To learn more about how criminal convictions can affect professional licenses, please visit our pages on professional license issues (which are organized by individual professions).

178 U.S. Code Section 1227 -- Deportable aliens. ("(a) Classes of deportable aliens. Any alien (including an alien crewman) in and admitted to the United States shall, upon the order of the Attorney General, be removed if the alien is within one or more of the following classes of deportable aliens...(2) Criminal offenses. (A) General crimes. (i) Crimes of moral turpitude. Any alien who-- (I) is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude committed within five years (or 10 years in the case of an alien provided lawful permanent resident status under section 1255(j) of this title) after the date of admission, and (II) is convicted of a crime for which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed, is deportable.")

As stated above, fraud is considered a crime of moral turpitude (see our article on Crimes of Moral Turpitude for more information).

18 Penal Code 487 PC California's grand theft law.  ("Grand theft is theft committed in any of the following cases: (a) When the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding ($950) except as provided in subdivision (b)...")  This means that if the benefits are greater than $950, you not only violate California's welfare fraud law but California's grand theft law as well.

See also California Penal Code 489 PC -- Grand theft; punishment.  ("Grand theft is punishable as follows: (a) When the grand theft involves the theft of a firearm, by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, 2, or 3 years. (b) In all other cases [such as California welfare fraud], by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison.")

See also Penal Code 18 PC -- Punishment for felony not otherwise prescribed; alternate sentence to county jail.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.")

See also Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

19 California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 -- California Welfare Fraud, section (e).  ("(e) Any person who counterfeits or alters or knowingly uses, transfers, acquires, or possesses counterfeited or altered authorizations to participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or to receive food stamps or electronically transferred benefits in any manner not authorized by the Food Stamp Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-525 and all amendments thereto) or the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (7 U.S.C. SEC. 2011 et seq.) or the federal regulations pursuant to the act is guilty of forgery.")

See also California Penal Code 470: Forgery; Signatures or Seals; Corruption of Records.  ("(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person to any of the items listed in subdivision (d) is guilty of forgery. (b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another is guilty of forgery.  (c) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instrument, the record of which is by law evidence, or any record of any judgment of a court or the return of any officer to any process of any court, is guilty of forgery. (d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier's check, traveler's check, money order, post note, draft, any controller's warrant for the payment of money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, receipt for money or goods, bill of exchange, promissory note, order, or any assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or other contract for money or other property, contract, due bill for payment of money or property, receipt for money or property, passage ticket, lottery ticket or share purporting to be issued under the California State Lottery Act of 1984, trading stamp, power of attorney, certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership of a vehicle or undocumented vessel, or any certificate of any share, right, or interest in the stock of any corporation or association, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquittance, release or discharge of any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or any other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, certificate of shares of stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money [such as food stamps in a California welfare fraud scheme], or to receive or transfer certificates of shares of stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien, or convey any goods, chattels, lands, or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or falsifies the acknowledgment of any notary public, or any notary public who issues an acknowledgment knowing it to be false; or any matter described in subdivision (b). (e) Upon a trial for forging any bill or note purporting to be the bill or note of an incorporated company or bank, or for passing, or attempting to pass, or having in possession with intent to pass, any forged bill or note, it is not necessary to prove the incorporation of the bank or company by the charter or act of incorporation, but it may be proved by general reputation; and persons of skill are competent witnesses to prove that the bill or note is forged or counterfeited.")

See also California Penal Code 473 PC -- Forgery; punishment.  ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.")

See also Penal Code sections 18 and 672, endnote 12, above.

20 California Penal Code 118 PC - California's Perjury law.  ("(a) Every person who, having taken an oath that he or she will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly before any competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any of the cases in which the oath may by law of the State of California be administered, willfully and contrary to the oath, states as true any material matter which he or she knows to be false, and every person who testifies, declares, deposes, or certifies under penalty of perjury in any of the cases in which the testimony, declarations, depositions, or certification is permitted by law of the State of California under penalty of perjury and willfully states as true any material matter which he or she knows to be false, is guilty of perjury. This subdivision is applicable whether the statement, or the testimony, declaration, deposition, or certification is made or subscribed within or without the State of California. (b) No person shall be convicted of perjury where proof of falsity rests solely upon contradiction by testimony of a single person other than the defendant. Proof of falsity may be established by direct or indirect evidence.")

21 People v. Ramirez (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 65, 73.  ("The Legislature's requirement that statements by aid recipients be filed under penalty of perjury evinces that simultaneous prosecutions may be maintained for misrepresentation [under California's welfare fraud laws] and perjury. Additionally, when the Legislature overhauled aid programs from AFDC to CalWORKs, it was well aware of the Jenkins opinion. The Legislature maintained the requirement that annual redetermination certificates must be filed under penalty of perjury (by not changing that section at all) and later added section 11265.1 (regarding quarterly reports) containing the requirement that the quarterly reports must be signed under penalty of perjury. The evidence demonstrated that defendant received cash aid (the term used for money given under the portion of the CalWORKs program that replaced AFDC) and food stamps based on her fraudulent declarations, signed under penalty of perjury, that S was living with her. Based on the legislative intent as previously discussed, defendant was properly prosecuted for both perjury and misrepresentation arising out of the same acts. To protect her from dual punishment, the trial court appropriately stayed the punishment for her [California welfare fraud] misrepresentation conviction. Because we have reached the above conclusion, we need not determine if there are instances where violating section 10980 might not result in a violation of the perjury statute. The evidence in this case clearly does not present such a possibility, and neither defendant nor respondent provides us with specific arguments to make such a determination.")

22 California Penal Code 182 PC -- Definition; punishment; venue; evidence necessary to support conviction.  ("(a) If two or more persons conspire: (1) To commit any crime [including violating California's welfare fraud laws]. (2) Falsely and maliciously to indict another for any crime, or to procure another to be charged or arrested for any crime. (3) Falsely to move or maintain any suit, action, or proceeding. (4) To cheat and defraud any person of any property, by any means which are in themselves criminal, or to obtain money or property by false pretenses or by false promises with fraudulent intent not to perform those promises. (5) To commit any act injurious to the public health, to public morals, or to pervert or obstruct justice, or the due administration of the laws. (6) To commit any crime against the person of the President or Vice President of the United States, the Governor of any state or territory, any United States justice or judge, or the secretary of any of the executive departments of the United States. They are punishable as follows: When they conspire to commit any crime against the person of any official specified in paragraph (6), they are guilty of a felony and are punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for five, seven, or nine years. When they conspire to commit any other felony [such as California welfare fraud], they shall be punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as is provided for the punishment of that felony. If the felony is one for which different punishments are prescribed for different degrees, the jury or court which finds the defendant guilty thereof shall determine the degree of the felony the defendant conspired to commit. If the degree is not so determined, the punishment for conspiracy to commit the felony shall be that prescribed for the lesser degree, except in the case of conspiracy to commit murder, in which case the punishment shall be that prescribed for murder in the first degree. If the felony is conspiracy to commit two or more felonies which have different punishments and the commission of those felonies constitute but one offense of conspiracy, the penalty shall be that prescribed for the felony which has the greater maximum term. When they conspire to do an act described in paragraph (4), they shall be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. When they conspire to do any of the other acts described in this section, they shall be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. When they receive a felony conviction for conspiring to commit identity theft, as defined in Section 530.5, the court may impose a fine of up to twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000). All cases of conspiracy may be prosecuted and tried in the superior court of any county in which any overt act tending to effect the conspiracy shall be done. (b) Upon a trial for conspiracy, in a case where an overt act is necessary to constitute the offense, the defendant cannot be convicted unless one or more overt acts are expressly alleged in the indictment or information, nor unless one of the acts alleged is proved; but other overt acts not alleged may be given in evidence.")

23 Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Mike Castillo for any questions relating to Nevada's drug court and diversion programs. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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