A party can report welfare fraud in Indiana by calling the fraud hotline for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) at 800-403-0864. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The caller should select option 5, and when prompted, provide their Zip code.
Other methods to report welfare fraud in Indiana include email ReportFraud@fssa.IN.gov. A person can also fax a fraud report to 317-234-2244 and mail a fraud report to the FSSA Compliance Division, Room E-414, 402 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
What Is Welfare?
Certain types of public benefits constitute welfare, including:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/ food stamps.
- Medicaid and other state health care plans.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)/ cash assistance.
- Child Care Development Fund.
- Other FSSA public assistance programs.
Individuals who may commit welfare fraud include: recipients, service providers, healthcare professionals and FSSA employees.
What Is Welfare Fraud?
Welfare fraud is defined in Indiana Code Section 35-43-5-7 as a crime that involves knowingly or intentionally obtaining public relief or assistance through any of these means:
- Fictitious transfer.
- False or misleading oral or written statement.
- Fraudulent conveyance or other fraudulent means.
Welfare fraud can involve acquiring, possessing, using, transferring, selling, trading, issuing or disposing of an authorization document to obtain public relief or assistance. It includes the taking of public relief or assistance by using, transferring, acquiring, issuing or possessing a blank or incomplete authorization document to participate in public relief or assistance programs.
It is also welfare fraud to counterfeit or alter an authorization document to receive public relief or assistance or knowingly using, transferring, acquiring or possessing a counterfeit or altered authorization document to receive public relief or assistance.
In addition, it is welfare fraud to conceal information such as income from a job for the purpose of receiving public relief or assistance to which the person is not entitled.
Indiana State Penalties for Welfare Fraud
In Indiana, welfare fraud is a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty for this type of offense is up to one year in jail and a fine up to $5,000. The offense is a Level 6 felony if the amount of public relief or assistance is more than $750 and less than $50,000. The penalty for such an offense is between six months and two and one-half years' incarceration, with the advisory sentence being one year. The person may also be fined up to $10,000.
The offense is a Level 5 felony if the amount taken is at least $50,000. The penalty for such an offense is between one and six years' incarceration, with the advisory sentence being three years. The person may also be fined up to $10,000.
An advisory sentence is the guideline that the court may use when deciding the penalties for a felony offense. A judge typically uses an advisory sentence as a starting point. They may add or subtract time depending on aggravating or mitigating factors.
Mitigating Factors for the Court
A mitigating factor might be that the defendant had a child with special needs in their care. An aggravating factor might be that the defendant involved another person, particularly a minor, in the fraud.
When a person is convicted of welfare fraud, the sentencing court certifies the conviction and notes whether the defendant is placed on probation. It also notes whether the defendant has been ordered to pay restitution to the appropriate state agency, such as FSSA and the appropriate agency of the county in which the defendant resides.
Disqualification from Future Public Benefits
A defendant who is ordered to repay money owed for welfare fraud may be temporarily disqualified from receiving multiple types of public benefits. This is especially true for the benefit for which they committed fraud, during the period when they are making restitution.
- Indiana Family and Social Services Administration: Medicaid/Public Assistance Fraud
- Indiana Code: Section 35-43-5-7, Public Assistance Fraud
- Indiana Code: Section 35-50-3-2, Penalty for Class A Misdemeanor
- Indiana Code: Section 35-50-2-7, Penalty for Level 6 Felony
- Indiana Code: Section 35-50-2-6, Penalties for Level 5 Felony
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.