Whenever you get contacted by an investigator from the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA“), its is certainly an acceptable response to be concerned that you are or have been a subject of a potential criminal investigation. Maybe the Bureau of Fraud Investigation or another internal agency of the NYC HRA believes you lied or misrepresented your financial resources or employment when you obtained medical or other benefits. Maybe their is evidence of some other supposed wrongdoing. If accurate and correct, your conduct may have been willful. However, your actions may also may been the result of an honest mistake. Whatever reason the HRA is contacting you by phone or letter, its is critically important to understand your potential exposure and to learn how to protect yourself before you admit to any fraudulent act that can not only compound your situation in terms restitution, but also lead to a criminal prosecution by a District Attorney’s Office.
The Human Resources Administration Department of Social Services – Investigation Revenue and Enforcement Administration – Bureau of Fraud Investigation (yes, that is a very lengthy title, but we will just stay with “HRA” for the remainder of this blog entry), often sends letters to those who are targets of investigations for eligibility for Medicaid and other related benefits. The letters seem fairly non aggressive, but also matter of fact and straight to the point. The HRA is conducting and investigation, they have scheduled an interview for you at a particular time and an investigator is assigned to your case. Additionally, the letter asks you to bring bank statements, driver’s license, income tax documents, leases, mortgagee bills, pay stubs and even a utility bill. Once you receive this alarming letter, your options are fairly clear. Either you ignore it (at your own peril), you go meet with an investigator and provide him or her with the documents they are seeking (at your own peril) or your consult with a criminal lawyer or other attorney who has insight into the HRA and Bureau of Fraud Investigation process.
Just as each investigation is unique, so are the outcomes of these cases. If an investigator is inclined, he or she can refer your case for criminal prosecution. In the event the allegation of fraud (in terms of dollar based benefits you wrongly received) is in excess of $1,000.00, you could face a class “E” felony of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law 155.30). If the accusation is in excess of $3,000.00, you could face a class “D” felony of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (New York Penal Law 155.35). Usually the most one would be accused of in these investigations, if the dollar amount exceeded $50,000.000, but was less then $1,000,000.00, you would potentially be charged with a class “C” felony of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 155.40). Exposure to these crimes are significant beyond a felony criminal conviction where sentences could reach as much as four, seven and fifteen years respectively.
Having addressed the criminal side of HRA fraud investigations, its equally important to understand that if handled correctly and the dollar amount is not too excessive, the matter can be resolved with a settlement agreement whereby there is no prosecution and a modification of the amount due and payment plan is implemented. To that end, Saland Law PC has successfully negotiated such agreements and avoided any criminal prosecutions for initial allegations involving as much as $100,000.00 in wrongful benefits to as little as approximately $20,000.00. While each case is unique and past results do not guarantee future outcome, only a few weeks ago Saland Law PC resolved an initial claim by the HRA for approximately $45,000 due (potentially just shy of a “C” felony theft) downward to a settlement agreement involving monthly installments totaling approximately $20,000.00. Not only did this particular client avoid the great unknown of a criminal prosecution, but the alleged dollar amount of the fraud accusation was diminished by more than half.
Whatever the HRA allegation may be, before you comply with a letter and provide your financial documents or you speak with an investigator about the investigation, contacting an attorney might be the best step you can take. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but one that you will be stuck with for better or worse.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense form founded by former Manhattan prosecutors. The criminal lawyers and former New York and Federal prosecutors at Saland Law PC represent clients in all theft and larceny related matters in both State and Federal courts as well as before New York City and municipal agencies including the HRA. To learn more about the crimes addressed above or other theft offenses, click through the links above or through the blogs and websites below.