Welfare Fraud In The Second Degree: NY Penal Law § 158.20

by ECL Writer
Welfare fraud in the first degree

Welfare fraud entails engaging in deceptive actions to secure public assistance benefits unlawfully. These deceitful acts may involve submitting false details on a benefits application, concealing the receipt of other forms of assistance like workers’ compensation, or failing to disclose income sources. In New York, there exist five distinct welfare fraud offenses, and the specific charge one faces hinges on the value of fraudulently obtained public assistance benefits. According to New York Penal Law section 158.20, you can be charged with welfare fraud in the second degree if you meet the following criteria:

  • Deliberately committed a fraudulent welfare act.
  • Obtained benefits exceeding a value of $50,000.

A “fraudulent welfare act” encompasses actions such as knowingly submitting an application for a public benefit card containing false information, assuming another person’s identity to access public assistance benefits, or providing false information to establish, maintain, increase, or prevent the reduction of public assistance benefits.

Under the welfare fraud statute, “public assistance benefits” encompass monetary assistance, property, or services furnished by the federal, state, or local government, and managed by the Department of Social Services or Social Services Districts.


Being categorized as a class C felony, a conviction for second-degree welfare fraud can lead to a sentence encompassing a maximum prison term of 15 years, a probationary period lasting up to 5 years, and monetary fines. Furthermore, you will be obligated to make restitution, repaying the sum of the fraudulently obtained benefits.


To secure a conviction for third-degree welfare fraud, the prosecution must substantiate that you illegitimately acquired benefits surpassing $50,000. If the prosecutor fails to establish the fraudulent benefit amount, the court is inclined to dismiss the charge. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the prosecutor retains the option to pursue welfare fraud charges in the third, fourth, or fifth degree, should the evidence warrant such action.

New York Penal Law § 158.20: Welfare fraud in the second degree

Welfare fraud in the third degree is committed when an individual engages in a deceptive welfare act resulting in the acquisition of public assistance benefits valued at more than three thousand dollars.

Related Offenses

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

When facing welfare fraud in the second degree case in New York, hiring an experienced lawyer is paramount. New York’s welfare fraud laws are complex, and a skilled attorney can make all the difference in your defense. A knowledgeable lawyer will help you navigate the legal system, gather evidence, and build a strong case. They will work to protect your rights, negotiate with prosecutors, and provide invaluable counsel throughout the process. With the potential consequences of a welfare fraud conviction, including fines and imprisonment, the right lawyer can significantly impact the outcome of your case, ensuring the best possible defense strategy.

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