If you use any of Minnesota’s great government programs to receive assistance for you and your family, there always runs the slight risk that the day may come when you find yourself under investigation for welfare fraud. While many use the system legitimately in order to get help, not everyone is so upstanding. This means that if something happens to trigger interest by the welfare system, they will want to investigate you for any wrongdoing. Furthermore, there are actually a few seemingly innocent actions that can actually constitute as fraud, meaning you may be defrauding the system without even realizing it.
However, whether welfare fraud was done intentionally or accidentally, when an investigation starts, you need to take action in order to protect yourself. Even if you did not commit welfare fraud, if they are investigating, it means that some sort of suspicious activity triggered that investigation. So what does one do when they are under investigation for welfare fraud?
The Investigation Process
The first step to taking action to protect yourself for what could be a very expensive welfare fraud conviction is to understand the investigation process. In many cases of recipient fraud, the area of welfare fraud that covers those who receive public assistance for cash, food, medical, and child care assistance, many cases are started because someone has reported fraudulent activity. When a complaint is received or your welfare case is viewed as somehow suspicious, an investigation will begin. In these situations, often the investigation will begin with a request for more information.
Before charges are filed officially, investigators from the Minnesota Department of Human Services will look into your case. They may go over your finances and even visit your home asking questions. It is important that if they contact you that you do not say more than necessary. Talking to an investigator should be treated very much like talking to law enforcement. They don’t have any authority to arrest you, but anything you say will be reported to the prosecutors if they decide to pursue a future welfare fraud case under the law.
During the investigation phase, you will actually be involved very little in it. It is the investigator’s job to decide if there is in fact fraud going on. If they find evidence to support suspicious behavior, two things have the possibility of happening. First they may find that you were being overpaid benefits, in which case those benefits will need to be repaid. Second, if you received benefits that you were not entitled to or grossly abused the system, they may turn over their evidence to a prosecutor and charges will officially be filed.
What to Do Next?
In truth, the moment you are informed that you are being investigated for welfare fraud, you need to contact an attorney, especially if you are committing welfare fraud. Penalties for being convicted include not only losing benefits, but you can accrue up to $20,000 in fines. For the most egregious cases, you could find yourself facing a felony charge and jail time as well.
It is important to contact an attorney before even being officially charged so they can advise you on information that you have tell them and what you do not. Often talking to an investigator is made to seem like a casual conversation, but any small thing you admit can be used to convict. If you find yourself being questioned by an investigator, it is well within your rights to politely decline to answer any more questions until you have talked to your attorney.
Have you been informed that you are under investigation for any kind of welfare fraud in the Twin Cities area? Then you need to take measures quickly to protect yourself. If you are looking at welfare fraud charges, then contact us today to see what the Speas Law Firm can do to help protect you.
Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.