Welfare Fraud In The Fourth Degree: NY Penal Law § 158.10

by ECL Writer
Welfare fraud in the first degree

When contemplating theft-related crimes, people often associate them with offenses like grand larceny, shoplifting, and robbery. However, another form of theft exists in the realm of welfare fraud, a crime involving the unlawful acquisition of government resources. For instance, if an individual submits a fraudulent application for welfare benefits and successfully obtains them, they have committed an act of welfare fraud. In the state of New York, there are five distinct categories of welfare fraud offenses, and the specific charge levied against an individual hinges on the value of the public assistance benefits they are accused of misappropriating from the government.

Under New York Penal Law section 158.10, an individual may face prosecution for welfare fraud in the fourth degree if they meet the following criteria:

  • Deliberately engaged in a fraudulent welfare act, and
  • Received benefits with a value exceeding $1,000.

A “fraudulent welfare act” encompasses any of the following actions:

  • Submitting an application for a public benefit card while knowing it contains false information,
  • Impersonating another person with the intent of acquiring public assistance benefits, or
  • Providing false information to establish or maintain eligibility for public assistance benefits, or to increase or prevent the reduction of such benefits.

In the context of the welfare fraud statute, “public assistance benefits” refer to money, property, or services furnished by the federal, state, or local government and managed by the Department of Social Services or social services districts.


Welfare fraud in the fourth degree is classified as a class E felony. In the event of a conviction for this offense, potential penalties encompass a maximum prison sentence of four years, a probation period lasting up to five years, and monetary fines. Additionally, you will be mandated to make restitution in an amount equivalent to the fraudulently obtained benefits.


To secure a conviction for welfare fraud in the fourth degree, the prosecution must establish that the fraudulently obtained benefits surpass the threshold of $1,000. If the prosecution cannot demonstrate this, even if they successfully establish that you acquired benefits through fraudulent means, the court is inclined to dismiss the charge.

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

An individual is deemed to have committed welfare fraud in the fourth degree when they engage in a fraudulent act related to welfare, resulting in the acquisition of public assistance benefits, provided that the total value of these benefits exceeds one thousand dollars.

Related Offenses

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

Hiring a New York lawyer for a welfare fraud in the fourth-degree case is essential to navigate the complexities of the legal system. In this misdemeanor offense, the accused may face serious consequences, including fines and potential jail time. A skilled attorney with expertise in New York state law can provide crucial guidance and defense strategies to protect the accused’s rights and interests. They will assess the evidence, build a strong defense, negotiate with prosecutors, and represent the defendant in court if necessary. The right attorney ensures a fair legal process, potentially minimizing penalties and safeguarding the accused’s future.

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