Nadya Suleman is the woman the media likes to refer to as “Octomom” after she gave birth to octuplets in 2009. She had six children prior to those eight additional children being born.
The single mother of 14 has gotten herself into trouble with Los Angeles authorities. She is being accused of unlawfully collecting public assistance benefits from county welfare agencies.
Prosecutors have charged “Octomom” with four felony counts of welfare fraud because she allegedly failed to report about $30,000 in income that she received from endorsement deals, residuals from a pornographic video and other personal appearances.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office charged her in January with one count of aid by misrepresentation and two counts of perjury for submitting a false application for benefits. Another felony count was added this month after prosecutors alleged Suleman illegally collected an additional $10,000 in Medi-Cal benefits.
Altogether, “Octomom” is accused of defrauding the state of about $26,000 worth of welfare benefits.
What is Welfare?
There are a variety of public assistance (welfare) benefit programs that are available in California to help low-income persons and families meet basic needs. Some of these programs include:
- CalFresh (formerly known as the food stamp program): federal assistance to purchase food under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP);
- CalWorks (TANF): cash aid and services to eligible needy families;
- CAPI (Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants) provides cash to certain aged, blind, or disabled legal non-citizens who are ineligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) / State Supplemental Payment (SSP) due to their immigration status;
- General Relief/General Assistance (GR/GA): cash aid to poverty stricken (indigent) people who don’t qualify for other forms of public assistance;
- Medi-Cal: California’s Medicaid program that provides public health insurance coverage for low income adults and children.
Cash and food purchasing benefits are transmitted electronically every month to the receiver’s account and are available on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, just like a bank debit card.
How Can You Be Prosecuted for Committing Welfare Fraud? (WIC 10980)
Welfare fraud is prohibited under California Welfare & Institutions Code 10980. Federal welfare fraud occurs when you make false statements or fail to report important information when applying for these types of public programs in order to receive benefits to which you are not legally entitled.
You can be charged with committing welfare fraud if you intentionally do any of the following:
- Misstate information or fail to provide relevant information in order to get, keep or increase welfare benefits;
- Apply for benefits under someone else’s name or a fake name;
- File multiple applications to obtain multiple benefits; and/or
- Unlawfully use, transfer, acquire, purchase, sell, possess, alter or counterfeit either:
- CalFresh (food) benefits, or
- Authorizations to receive CalFresh benefits.
Examples of Welfare Fraud
There are many ways you can commit welfare fraud. Some of the more common methods include:
- Claiming you are a single parent while your child’s other parent still lives in your residence;
- Failure to report any earned income or other benefits;
- Submitting a claim for a child who does not live in the home;
- Submitting a claim for fictitious or someone else’s children;
- Submitting a claim as a fictitious person;
- Using someone else’s social security number to collect benefits (false identification); and/or
- Collecting California welfare benefits while collecting benefits from another state.
Sentencing and Punishment for Committing Welfare Fraud
Committing welfare fraud in California may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on what you did to collect, attempt to collect, or continue to receive benefits to which you were not entitled to. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony will depend on if you committed one of the following acts:
- False Statements – If you are convicted of making a false or misleading statement to get welfare benefits, you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a maximum $500 fine.
- Fraudulent Applications – Filing a fraudulent application is a “wobbler” offense, which means you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. This could mean you either:
- Filed multiple applications for the same person;
- Used someone else’s identity to try to collect benefits; or
- Applied as a fictitious person.
A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. A felony conviction means you face up to three years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
- Fraudulent Collection of Benefits – If you actually collect or continue to receive benefits to which you were not entitled to, you can be charged with a misdemeanor if the total amount you received is $950 or less. If you collected more than $950 in benefits, you face a felony. If convicted, you can be punished as follows:
- Misdemeanor – up to six months in jail and a fine up to $500;
- Felony – up to three years in jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.
Reports suggest that “Octomom” Nadya Suleman faces as much as five years and eight months behind bars if she is convicted of defrauding California public assistance programs.
Other Consequences of Committing Welfare Fraud
If you are convicted of welfare fraud, you may also face other consequences, such as:
- Additional and consecutive sentencing in prison if you use an EBT card to unlawfully accept or transfer benefits depending on the amount involved;
- Suspension or revocation of your state license. Fraud is considered a “crime of moral turpitude” and often triggers professional disciplinary proceedings;
- Deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen; and/or
- Ineligibility from receiving public benefits in the future.
Contact Wallin & Klarich if you are Facing Charges of Committing Welfare Fraud
If you or someone you love is being accused of committing welfare fraud, you should contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich right away. Not only do you face the possibility of incarceration if you are found guilty of committing fraud, you could also lose future benefits.
Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients charged with fraud crimes. We are dedicated to providing you with the very best legal representation throughout your criminal case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich will employ every available strategy to help you avoid the serious consequences of a welfare fraud conviction. We will help you get the best possible result in your case.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.