If you just received a letter from the Suffolk County Department of Social Services Office of Special Investigations, you understandably have concerns. The letter can be about Medicaid investigation or SNAP investigation. The most important thing to do is to not panic and not call the phone number on the letter but speak to an attorney instead.
If you would like to discuss the letter with an attorney, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. You can call us anytime at 718-509-9774.
Here are the most frequently asked questions with answers based on our experience with Medicaid fraud and SNAP food stamp fraud investigations.
Should I contact the investigator like the letter says?
Do not contact the investigator. They are trained to get you to provide incriminating information that can be used against you in court. If you talk to the investigator, they will ask to provide more information and will ask to provide documents. They will continue working the case until they build enough of a case to take to court and secure a criminal conviction.
Recently, they have also set up an online portal where they ask the targets of their investigation to send them documents. After that, if they receive enough incriminating information about their target, they may refer the case to the District Attorney’s office to prosecute in criminal court.
They may ultimately settle the case with no criminal liability. But they like to build a strong criminal case against you first. Which is something that you would rather do without.
And this is why speaking to an investigator is a bad idea. Because you will end up providing incriminating evidence against yourself.
But ignoring the investigation is also a bad idea, because it will not go away on its own, it will only get escalated to the District Attorney’s Office. That’s because even though they don’t have your testimony, they typically already have enough documentary evidence to build a successful criminal case against you.
This is why the best way to resolve a food stamp investigation is to have an attorney handle it for you. Attorneys are trained to protect your rights.
If you need an attorney, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. You can call us right away at 718-509-9774.
If a Department of Social Services investigator sees that you are not following up, they may try to contact you. You can just tell them that you cannot talk to them. There is no need to worry about disappointing the investigator. They understand that remaining silent is your right and that letting you remain silent is a part of their job.
It’s definitely not a good idea to back to them. Then you are just doing their job for them. Have an attorney follow up with them instead.
I already talked to an investigator. What happens now?
If you did already talked to an investigator, think about this: was talking to them really a good idea?
An investigator has years of training and experience that you do not have. They have many strategies at their disposal. Here are some examples:
- They can pretend to be friendly
- They can lie to you
- They can threaten you
- They will try to get you to reveal incriminating information that can be used against you by the D.A.
- They can detain you
- They can show their true face and let you know what kind of trouble you’re really in
- They can work in pairs and play good cop-bad cop
- They can make you sign a statement
- They will record everything you say
- They can testify to what you’ve said
- They have the time to be persistent
And what strategies do you have? None.
- Do not talk to the investigator
- Do not be friendly with them
- Do not cry
- Do not give them excuses
- Do not try to show them that you’re a real person, not a criminal from TV
- Do not think that if you’re honest and provide all the (incriminating) information, they will let you go
- Do not tell them you’re a single mom
- Do not beg for their sympathy
- Do not tell them you don’t have money
- Do not tell them you didn’t know
- Do not tell them the children’s father and you are “separated” in your mind
- Do not tell them someone else told you to fill out the application this way
- Do not tell them you don’t know the language
- Do not tell them the change is recent and you didn’t have the time to report it
- Do not them you had no choice
- Do not tell them it’s the government’s fault
If you continue talking to the investigators, you will crack under the pressure. Everyone does.
What kind of evidence does the Department of Social Services already have against me?
Here is the kind of evidence the investigator already has:
- Records of everyone who resides in your household
- Records of everyone’s income, from tax returns and employment records
- Records of everyone’s assets, from bank statements and deeds
- Copies of leases
- DMV records
- Records of everyone’s addresses and actual physical place or residence and employment
- Records of usage of the benefits card, including date, time and location
- Photos, videos and recordings
The Department of Social Services office of special investigations is investigating me, will I go to jail?
Some people have gone to jail for Medicaid or SNAP fraud. But that does not mean that you will. What this does mean is that you should speak to an attorney immediately and discuss your legal strategy. Since Medicaid and SNAP fraud is a crime, Department of Social Services office of special investigations can be escalated and referred to the District Attorney’s office by the Department of Social Services investigator. It is crucial to hire a fraud defense attorney who is familiar with criminal investigations, in order to increase your chances of a good defense.
What is the penalty for Medicaid or SNAP fraud?
New York Penal Law 155 describes the sentencing guidelines for someone committing Medicaid or SNAP fraud. The sentence depends on the total amount received. For most people, the amount received from Medicaid or SNAP is between over $3,000 and under $50,000, which according to the guidelines can carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail.
|Amount Received||Degre of Welfare Fraud||Section of Penal Code||Felony Class||Penalty|
|In excess of $1,000 but not more than $3,000||Fourth Degree||PL 158.10||Class E Felony||up to 4 years in prison|
|In excess of $3,000 but not greater than $50,000||Third Degree||PL 158.15||Class D Felony||up to 7 years in prison|
|In excess of $50,000 but is not more than $1 million||Second Degree||PL 158.20||Class C Felony||up to 15 years in prison|
Payment of Restitution
If you are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office and get sentenced, then you will not only have to go to jail but would also have to pay back the benefits received as restitution.
Do I have to pay back the entire amount?
The important thing to remember is that the priority is to avoid criminal liability. Having said that, the amount of payback is also important. In some cases, especially when the total amount is very high, and the beneficiary’s eligibility is questionable but plausible, reducing the amount owed for money expended by the Department of Social Services for Medicaid, Child Health Plus or SNAP benefits may be possible. Some of the ways we do that are showing a period of eligibility. The letter can be an indication of what we are dealing with.
Is there a way to not pay back any benefits and to keep my services and benefits?
If we can prove to the Department of Social Services that you were eligible in the first place, then it may be possible to avoid benefit payback, and it may be possible to keep your services and benefits. However, most investigated cases have a solid foundation and are difficult to challenge in a significant way.
Can I pay back the DSS Department of Social Services in installments?
The priority of the office of special investigations is to collect as much as they can with as much of it upfront as possible. It is possible in some cases to enter into an installment agreement, with assistance from an experienced attorney. It’s easier to get low installments on Medicaid cases than on SNAP cases. If you got a letter from the Department of Social Services and you are looking for an attorney, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much does it cost to hire an attorney?
The fee for a Medicaid fraud or food-stamp fraud attorney to represent you during a Medicaid or SNAP food stamp ion by the Department of Social Services would depend on your situation, which will be explained in the letter or during a meeting with the Department of Social Services or.
Can I get benefits if my situation changed and I am now eligible even though I was not before?
You can go to your local Medicaid or SNAP office and reapply if you have just become eligible, even if you were not eligible before.
If a person does not reside in the household, can the Department of Social Services still say that they do?
Even if you claim that a person does not reside in the household, the Department of Social Services Office of Special Investigations can still consider them to be a part of the household and target them as a part of the Medicaid and SNAP investigation process. We often see a person not listed as part of the household receiving a letter from the bureau of fraud investigation as well. A children’s father is considered to be a part of the household often just by virtue of being the father, and often with the following additional factors:
- spends time in the household
- married to the mother of the children
- list the household address on his tax returns
- claim children as dependents
- claims the mother of the children as a dependent
- has his name on the deed, lease or the utility bills
- provides material support for the family
Separated people living together
We live together, but I am of the opinion that we form separate households, we are two different families, why is the Department of Social Services saying that we are in one household?
The Suffolk County Department of Social Services views everyone living in the household as being the same household, even if the people themselves don’t consider themselves that way. The Medicaid administration would be especially concerned if the people in the house are related – let’s say, grandmother or uncle. It’s different if people are just roommates. In a situation where there is a family, especially where the father of the children is not listed on an application or recertification, a fraud investigation is a frequent occurrence.
Is there a way to beat a Medicaid or SNAP fraud investigation? Read about the 9 things we always do in an Department of Social Services SNAP or Medicaid fraud investigation plus the 5 things you should never do in a Suffolk County Department of Social Services SNAP or Medicaid fraud investigation.
I got a letter from the Department of Social Services and it’s unclear. What does it actually say?
Here is the standard text of the letter in its entirety:
County of Suffolk Department of Social Services
Office of Special Investigations
This office is conducting an investigation concerning your eligibility to receive public benefits. These services may include one or more of the following programs: Temporary Cash Assistance, SNAP, Medicaid, Child Care and/or HEAP.
Our records indicate that you may have received overpayments to which you were not entitled because of the following:
( ) Family Composition
( ) Unreported Income or Benefits
( ) Unreported Assets
( ) Other
If the investigation uncovers evidence which indicates fraudulent receipt of benefits or services, further action may be taken.
A telephone interview has been arranged for you with investegator ___ who can be reached at _____ to discuss these matters. Please call this number on _______ at _____. If you are unable to keep this appointment,then you may also call the above listed number to arrange a new appointment date and time.
(Or, An interview has been arranged for you with an investigator. Please report on the following date to the address checked off below:
( ) CORAM CENTER, 80 Middle Country Rd., Coram, New York
( ) SOUTH WEST CENTER, 2 south 2nd St., Deer Park, New York
( ) SMITHTOWN CENTER, 200 Wireless Blvd., Hauppage, New York
( ) SOCIAL SERVICES – Mary Gordon Building, 3085 VEt’s Memorial Highway, Ronkonkoma, New York
( ) RIVERHEAD CENTER, 893 East Main Street, Riverhead, New York
PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE ABOVE NUMBER UNLESS YOU WISH TO RESCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT. THIS MATTER CANNOT BE DISCUSSED OVER THE TELEPHONE.)
Any other appointments scheduled by this Agency must also be kept. If you are presently receiving Temporary Cash Assistance, failure to keep this appointment may result in action to close your case. Failure to keep this appointment will not affect your SNAP eligibility.
At the interview, if it is determined that you received an overpayment of benefits or services through fraud or deliberate concealment of a material fact, one of the results may be that you may be requested to sign an Affidavit and Confession of Judgment (COJ). If a COJ is requested and signed, it will be filed with the County Clerk, become a lien on any real property you own within Suffolk County, may be erected upon through garnishment of salary and may be used against you in any criminal, civil or administrative proceeding. You do not have to sign a COJ, however other legal actions may be taken against you.
ALL PERSONS INTERVIEWED HAVE A RIGHT TO HAVE LEGAL COUNSEL OR A LAY PERSON PRESENT DURING THE APPOINTMENT. THERE ARE COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES AVAILABLE TO ASSIST YOU.
(Please bring this letter, your Social Services identification Card and the following items with you:
PHOTO ID, MOST RECENT BANK STATEMENTS FROM ALL BANK ACCOUNTS, PAY STUBS, TAX RETURNS)
In addition you may be asked to supply additional documentation as a result of this interview. You may fax this documentation to the attention of the above named investigator.
If you think that the Department of Social Services Medicaid Fraud Division is investigating you for SNAP or Medicaid fraud, contact an attorney immediately.
We at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin represent people who got a letter from the Department of Social Services Office of Special Investigations. We also represent clients in defending criminal charges associated with Medicaid and SNAP fraud. You can reach Albert Goodwin, Esq. at (718) 509-9774.