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Home » Financial Crimes Lawyer » CalFresh Food Stamps Fraud Lawyer

California CalFresh Food Stamps Fraud Attorney – Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC

Should I Find A CalFresh Food Stamp Fraud Attorney?

If you have been accused of CalFresh fraud, then you will want to immediately get in touch with a lawyer at My Rights Law. The California financial crimes lawyers at My Rights Law have a track record of success in food stamp fraud cases like yours. We will clarify your legal options and work tirelessly to defend you. To get started, call My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882  or send us a message on our secure web form to get a free consultation.

What is Food Stamp Fraud in California?

Approximately 4.8 million people in California receive food stamps through the CalFresh program.[1] These benefits provide a vital lifeline for many people who are struggling to put food on the table. California also aggressively investigates any accusations of fraud and will prosecute individuals for receiving benefits they aren’t entitled to.

You can find the definition of welfare fraud in the Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC.[2] You commit fraud under this law if you:

  • Willfully and knowingly make false statements or knowingly fail to disclose a relevant fact to obtain, retain, or increase undeserved CalFresh food stamps; or
  • Apply for benefits using multiple names or submitting multiple applications to obtain undeserved benefits; or
  • Use, buy, obtain, sell, alter, possess, or counterfeit an authorization to receive food stamps or actual food stamps.

Food Stamps Fraud Penalties

The penalties will depend on what you are convicted of.

1. Making False Statements To Obtain Or Retain Food Stamps

If you make false statements to obtain or retain benefits, you have committed a misdemeanor offense, which carries penalties of up to 6 months in county jail and a maximum $500 fine.

2. Filing Fraudulent Applications

Filing fraudulent applications could be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. A felony can result in imprisonment for 16 months, two years, or three years. You also face a maximum $5,000 fine.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

3. Obtaining Or Retaining Fraudulent Benefits

If you obtained or retained undeserved benefits, your punishment depends on the amount of benefits you received:

  • If you received $950 or less, then you face a misdemeanor charge with a maximum of 6 months in county jail and a $500 fine.
  • If you received more than $950, then you face felony charges with a maximum of 3 years behind bars and a $5,000 fine.

4. Using, Selling, Obtaining, Or Possessing Food Stamps Unlawfully

This offense can also be charged as a misdemeanor or felony based on the amount of benefits. If $950 or less, then a misdemeanor. If more than $950, a felony.[3]

5. Enhancement for Electronically Transferred Benefits

Most food stamps are electronically loaded onto a card. California has enhanced penalties for any conviction for welfare fraud that involves electronically transferred benefits.[4] These penalties are steep:

  • 1 year incarceration if $50,000 of transferred benefits
  • 2 years incarceration if transfer exceeds $150,000
  • 3 years incarceration if transfer exceeds $1,000,000
  • 4 years incarceration if transfer exceeds $2,500,000

These are additional years tacked onto the end of your sentence. It’s possible to spend several years in jail for this reason.

How Do Welfare Fraud Investigators Uncover Food Stamp Fraud In California?

Prosecuting attorneys rely on many sources to help them uncover CalFresh / Food Stamps fraud. For example, they might receive:

  • Tips from a hotline where the public can report suspected fraud.
  • Reports from social services departments that disburse benefits.
  • Reports from any other state agency that suspects fraud.

Once you are on the state’s radar, you can expect an investigator to reach out to contact you. They will want to set up a time to talk about your benefits. Remember, anything you say can be used against you in court.

Investigators might also reach out to friends, family members, coworkers, and anyone else who might have relevant information about your food stamp use or possible evidence of recipient fraud.

Prosecutors are ultimately responsible for deciding whether to file criminal charges. If they believe the evidence is too weak, they might simply sit on the case. If they feel they have strong evidence, they might file charges.

What Is The Welfare Fraud Diversion Program?

This is an option in CalFresh Food Stamps Fraud cases in certain California counties. Under the diversion program, you can repay the fraudulent benefits and avoid a criminal conviction. This is a “win-win” for all. The state gets its money back, and you avoid a criminal conviction on your record.

The details of these welfare fraud diversion programs differ by the county which offers them. In many cases, you must have no criminal history and not have fraudulently obtained too many benefits. If you qualify, you can repay the money and usually take a diversion class. At the end of the process, a judge dismisses the charges.

Our lawyers always analyze whether diversion is an option. If so, we can help you qualify and avoid a criminal conviction.

What Are Examples Of Food Stamps Fraud?

These benefits are means-tested, which means you can only qualify for them if your income is below a certain threshold. People who make too much money cannot qualify. There are other factors that go into consideration of whether you qualify.[5] And if you manipulate or lie about this information, you might commit welfare fraud.

Some examples include:

  • Lying on food stamp application
  • Not reporting income, such as money paid in cash for a side hustle
  • Submitting an application for a child that doesn’t live with you
  • Claiming you are a single parent when your child’s parent is living with you
  • Making up the names of fake children
  • Submitting multiple applications for CalFresh benefits
  • Failing to disclose any felony convictions which can disqualify you from the program
  • Using fake Social Security Numbers to obtain benefits
  • Failing to disclose assets

Can You Defend Against CalFresh Food Stamp Fraud In California?

Yes. Of course, the right defense depends on the facts of your case. Nonetheless, we frequently raise some of the following.

Lack Of Fraudulent Intent

It’s not a crime to simply make a mistake on a food stamp application and in turn obtain welfare benefits. You might have innocently or carelessly reported inaccurate information. This law requires that you act with fraudulent intent to prove you guilty.

For example, you might have inherited some money from your mother’s estate when she passed. You honestly didn’t know you had to report these assets when you applied for CalFresh.

Similarly, your ex might have moved back into the house. You weren’t hiding that information. You simply forgot to update your information with the benefits office. This type of oversight does not display criminal intent.

Reasonable Doubt

The prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high bar to clear. There might be doubt about whether you are the one who actually submitted a fraudulent application, for example. A fraudulent application might have your Social Security Number on it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you submitted it.

With reasonable doubt, there are often too many gaps in the evidence that the prosecutor failed to fill in. We can highlight all the problems.


Because penalties often depend on the amount of benefits fraudulently obtained, we sometimes argue the state miscounted. This type of defense won’t lead to charges being dropped. However, you might face less time in jail.

Experienced Defense Attorneys Can Fight CalFresh Fraud / Welfare Fraud Charges

Being accused of fraud is a terrifying experience. Fortunately, the seasoned lawyers at My Rights Law know how to effectively mount the best defense available, given your circumstances. Our legal team will immediately begin analyzing all evidence and determine weaknesses in the state’s case against you. To learn more about how to fight charges of committing welfare fraud, contact My Rights Law today by calling (888) 702-8882 or contacting us through our secure web form for a free, confidential consultation.

Other financial crimes we defend include: White Collar Crimes

[1] CalFresh.
[2] California Welfare and Institutions Code 10980 WIC
[3] WIC 10980(g)
[4] WIC 10980(h)
[5] See CalFresh website, Eligibility and Issuance Requirements.

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