In Colorado, you can be charged with welfare fraud for
- filing a false application for welfare benefits,
- making a false statement such as underreporting income,
- failing to disclose all the people residing in the home, or
- failing to report all of the assets and property owned.
Welfare fraud is subject to criminal theft charges. Penalties depend on the value of the fraud involved.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is welfare fraud in Colorado?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. What are the most common legal defenses?
- 4. Are there crimes related to welfare fraud?
Welfare fraud involves making a false statement, filing a false claim for welfare, or withholding information in order to receive welfare benefits. This includes:
- Underreporting income
- Failing to report all the people in their household
- Obtaining welfare benefits from multiple states
- Failing to report other property or assets
- Taking another person’s welfare benefits without authorization
There are many types of public assistance available to Colorado residents. This includes food assistance, cash programs, and medical benefits. Cash welfare programs include:
- Colorado Works
- Aid to the Needy Disabled Colorado Supplement to Social Security (AND-CS)
- Aid to the Needy Disabled and Aid to the Blind (AND-SO)
- Old Age Pension (OAP)
- Home Care Allowance (HCA)
- Personal Needs Allowance (PNA)
Most welfare fraud in Colorado is prosecuted under the state’s laws against larceny or theft. A person commits theft when they knowingly obtain anything of value without authorization or through deception.1
|Value of Welfare Fraud||Class of Criminal Offense||Penalties|
|Less than $300||Petty Offense||Up to 10 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $300|
|$300 or more but less than $1,000||Class 2 Misdemeanor||Up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750|
|$1,000 or more but less than $2,000||Class 1 Misdemeanor||Up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000|
|$2,000 or more but less than $5,000||Class 6 Felony||12 to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000|
|$5,000 or more but less than $20,000||Class 5 Felony||1 to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000|
|$20,000 or more but less than $100,000||Class 4 Felony||2 to 6 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000|
|$100,000 or more but less than $1 million||Class 3 Felony||4 to 12 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $750,000|
|$1 million or more||Class 2 Felony||8 to 24 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000|
There are many defenses available to individuals charged with welfare fraud. This includes:
- You did not intend to commit welfare fraud
- You believed you were submitting an accurate and legitimate welfare claims
- Incorrect information was entered by mistake or was a typo
- You were a victim of identity theft
- There were no fraudulent documents filed
Welfare fraud may involve other related criminal offenses. This includes forgery, identity theft charges when another person’s information was used to get welfare benefits, and may also involve a computer crime if a computer was used in filing for welfare benefits.
In Colorado, it is a criminal offense to use another person’s personal or financial identifying information to obtain anything of value. This includes using another person’s identity to file a claim for welfare benefits. Identity theft can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
4.2. Computer Crime C.R.S. 18-5.5-102
In Colorado, it is a computer crime to access any computer, computer network, or computer system for the purpose of executing any scheme to defraud. This includes reporting false information online to receive welfare benefits. The criminal penalties for computer crimes depend on the value of theft or loss.
Forgery in Colorado law involves altering or making fake documents with the intent to defraud. Prescription fraud may involve forging documents in support of an application for welfare benefits. Forgery in the first-degree is a class 5 felony in Colorado, with penalties including 1 to 3 years in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000.
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- C.R.S. 8-4-401. Prior to March 1, 2022, welfare fraud of less than $300 was a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750; welfare fraud of $300 or more but less than $750 was a class 2 misdemeanor carrying 3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000; welfare fraud of $750 or more but less than $2,000 was a class 1 misdemeanor carrying 6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. SB21-271.