Authorities in Palm Beach County filed charges against 22 individuals Wednesday, alleging they stole nearly $1 million.
"Operation Leap Fraud," apparently one of the biggest public assistance fraud roundups ever in Palm Beach County netted suspects from across Palm Beach County Jupiter to Delray Beach, and from Pahokee to West Palm Beach on charges ranging from mortgage and insurance fraud to public assistance fraud.
According to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, only 15 of those charged have been arrested at this time; seven others remained at large Wednesday evening.
Authorities claim the 22 individuals racked up $967,647.37 in fraud.
Authorities did not mention how long the operation took place, but the investigation, which included the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture, apparently targeted people suspected of defrauding housing and other agencies.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the State Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Office said more arrests will follow and there will be no tolerance for even minor cases.
One of the men arrested in the sting, allegedly only defrauded $817.14. Authorities claim the man bilked an elderly woman out of her government-issued Electronic Benefit Transfer card, leaving her without the means to buy food.
It will definitely be interesting to see how the State Attorney's Office will prosecute these cases. The government and insurance companies do not look fondly on those that attempt to defraud various benefits meant to assist qualifying individuals with their day-to-day needs. There are many ways to defraud the government, and the Florida White Collar Crime Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can assist those facing various fraud charges, including:
• Health Insurance Fraud
• Organized Fraud
• Identity Theft
• Welfare Fraud
• Public Assistance Fraud
Florida public assistance fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the amounts wrongfully obtained. The fraud charge can be classified as a felony if the amount of the assistance illegally gained is worth more than $200 over a 12-month period. Misdemeanor charges can be filed if the value of the assistance is less than $200. If convicted of public assistance or insurance fraud you will be required to pay back the amount of wrongfully obtained benefits and may be perpetually prohibited from receiving future benefits. You may also face jail or prison time, community service or a variety of other criminal punishments.
If you have been arrested for any public assistance fraud in Florida, it is crucial to your defense to consult with the Florida White Collar Crime Lawyers at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. We will do everything in our power to protect your Constitutional rights. At Whittel & Melton, we can provide you with the aggressive legal representation you need for every stage of your criminal case up to and including trial.
If you have been charged with public assistance fraud anywhere in the state of Florida, contact the Florida White Collar Crime Lawyers at Whittel & Melton online or by phone at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).