Welfare Fraud In The Third Degree: NY Penal Law § 158.15

by ECL Writer
Welfare fraud in the first degree

Welfare fraud involves the illegal acquisition of public assistance benefits through fraudulent means. This may encompass actions like providing false information when applying for benefits, concealing the receipt of other forms of aid (such as workers’ compensation), or neglecting to report income. In New York, there are five distinct welfare fraud offenses, and the specific charge an individual faces depends on the amount of public assistance benefits acquired through deceptive methods.

Under New York Penal Law section 158.15, you may be subject to prosecution for welfare fraud in the third degree if you meet the following criteria:

  • Deliberately engaged in a deceptive welfare-related activity.
  • The total value of the benefits obtained surpasses $3,000.

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

  • Submitting a benefit application containing knowingly false information.
  • Assuming another person’s identity to secure public assistance benefits.
  • Making false statements to establish, maintain, increase, or prevent the reduction of eligibility for public assistance benefits.

In the context of the welfare fraud statute, “public assistance benefits” encompass financial support, property, or services supplied by federal, state, or local government entities and administered by the Department of Social Services or social services districts.


Welfare fraud in the third degree, classified as a class D felony, carries potential penalties that consist of a maximum 7-year prison sentence, up to 5 years of probation, and a financial fine. Additionally, you will be mandated to reimburse an amount equivalent to what you unlawfully obtained as part of your sentence.


To secure a conviction for welfare fraud in the third degree, the prosecution must establish that you deceitfully obtained benefits exceeding $3,000. If the prosecution can demonstrate fraud but fails to substantiate the exact amount of fraudulently obtained benefits, the court is likely to dismiss the charge.

New York Penal Law § 158.15: Welfare fraud in the third degree

An individual commits welfare fraud in the third degree when they engage in a fraudulent welfare activity resulting in the acquisition of public assistance benefits exceeding three thousand dollars.

Related Offenses

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

When facing a welfare fraud in the third-degree case in New York, hiring a skilled lawyer is imperative. These legal professionals possess a deep understanding of state-specific laws and regulations, providing invaluable guidance throughout the legal process. A qualified New York lawyer can investigate the case thoroughly, ensuring that evidence is handled properly and all legal procedures are followed. They will work diligently to protect your rights and develop a strong defense strategy to minimize potential penalties. Whether it’s negotiating with prosecutors or representing you in court, a knowledgeable lawyer is your best ally in navigating the complexities of welfare fraud cases in New York.

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