Welfare fraud in the first degree: NY Penal Law § 158.25

by ECL Writer
Welfare fraud in the first degree

Due to the prevalence of welfare fraud, law enforcement has allocated an increasing amount of resources towards the detection and prosecution of individuals who receive public assistance benefits through fraudulent means. Welfare fraud constitutes the unlawful act of obtaining public assistance benefits through deceptive actions, such as providing false information on benefit applications, failing to disclose the receipt of other benefits like workers’ compensation, or neglecting to report additional income. This offense essentially equates to a form of theft.

In New York, there exist five distinct categories of welfare fraud offenses, with the specific charges varying depending on the alleged amount of public assistance benefits obtained through fraudulent activities. The most severe of these offenses is known as “welfare fraud in the first degree.” Under New York Penal Law section 158.25, a person can face prosecution for welfare fraud in the first degree if they meet the following criteria:

  • Deliberately engaged in a fraudulent welfare act.
  • The total value of the received benefits exceeded $1,000,000.

A “fraudulent welfare act” encompasses actions like submitting a public benefit application with knowingly false information, assuming another individual’s identity to gain access to public assistance benefits, or making false statements with the intention of establishing or preserving eligibility for such benefits or enhancing them while preventing reductions.

For the purposes of the welfare fraud statute, “public assistance benefits” refers to monetary support, assets, or services provided by the federal, state, or local government and administered through the Department of Social Services or social services districts.


Being classified as a class B felony, welfare fraud in the first degree stands as one of the gravest charges one can confront. In the event of a conviction, potential penalties encompass a maximum prison sentence of 25 years, a probationary period lasting up to 5 years, and financial fines. Moreover, you will be mandated to make restitution, reimbursing the total sum of fraudulently obtained benefits.


To secure a conviction for welfare fraud in the third degree, the prosecution must substantiate that you obtained benefits fraudulently in excess of $1,000,000. If the prosecutor fails to establish the fraudulent benefit amount, the court is inclined to dismiss the charge. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the prosecutor retains the option to potentially charge you with welfare fraud in the second, fourth, or fifth degree, depending on the circumstances.

New York Penal Law § 158.25: Welfare fraud in the first degree

An individual is deemed to have committed welfare fraud in the first degree if they engage in a deceptive act related to public assistance benefits, leading to the acquisition or receipt of such benefits, and if the cumulative value of these benefits surpasses one million dollars.

Related Offenses

Hiring a New York Lawyer for welfare fraud in the first degree case

Hiring a New York lawyer for welfare fraud in the first-degree case is a critical step in navigating this complex legal terrain. In a city known for its stringent welfare fraud regulations, having a seasoned attorney is imperative. A qualified lawyer can provide essential counsel, help build a robust defense strategy, and guide you through intricate legal procedures. They’ll investigate the case thoroughly, protect your rights, and work to minimize penalties or secure an acquittal if possible. Their expertise in New York’s legal system is invaluable, ensuring the best possible outcome for your welfare fraud case.

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