Section 8 is a federal government program which subsidizes rent payments for low-income families. It is administered by the HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) and local city administrations. In New York City, Section 8 is run by the NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority).
What are the legal implications of Section 8 Housing program?
Under New York City’s Section 8 program, the beneficiary is responsible for finding their own housing and pays about one-third of the rent, and the program pays the balance of the rent directly to the landlord.
Section 8 applicants must pass a income eligibility and asset test. Families with excessive income are not eligible. Income limits are set each year and a gradated according to the beneficiary’s family size.
In recent years, as the economy has worsened, both federal and New York City agencies have increased investigation into and prosecution of Section 8 housing fraud.
The most common type of Section 8 fraud is committed by applicants who falsify income and/or family size information in order to obtain benefits for which they are not eligible. Such fraud may come to the NYCHA’s attention due to discrepancies in the information provided, additional information obtained by the NYCHA from available records (such as property ownership) and from reports by other citizens who become aware of the fraud.
Section 8 beneficiaries are also forbidden to rent out or sublet their Section 8 rental properties, and such an activity is also viewed as housing fraud.
What Government Agencies Investigate Housing Fraud?
Section 8 fraud can be investigated and prosecuted by local, state, and federal authorities. In recent years, the number of federal prosecutions has increased considerably. State charges generally include grand larceny and filing of a false business document, and federal charges usually are theft of public money under 18 U.S.C. Section 641 or related statutes.
What are the penalties for housing fraud?
Penalties for Section 8 fraud can be severe, especially in federal cases. Each sentence will depend on the individual circumstances of each case; most commonly, deciding factors include the amount of money that was defrauded, whether the defendant is convicted of engaging in a fraudulent conspiracy or scheme, the level of fraud, and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Restitution and fines may also be imposed.
If you are being investigated or have been arrested for Section 8 fraud in New York City, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
What to do if you are under investigation
Finding out that you’re being targeted in a criminal investigation can be terrifying, but we can help you learn how to react intelligently and responsibly. With the right reaction techniques, you can overcome an investigation and secure the best results possible.
First, how do you know whether or not you’re being targeted? You may receive an official letter in the mail, or a phone call, but it’s not always that obvious. Investigators like to gather as much evidence as they can before they formally bring charges against you, but there are warning signs that you can look for if you have not yet received a letter or call.
Once you know or strongly suspect that you may be a target, what do you do? The very first thing you should do is consult a defense attorney and you should do so before responding to the investigators.
This is important because any response that you give to investigators could be used to incriminate you.
In the words of the Fifth Amendment, “No person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” You have the right to freedom from self-incrimination and, if you are being investigated, you should use it!
There is, however, a distinction between not directly responding to investigators and not responding at all: the first will be helpful to you but the second can hurt you. There may be deadlines in the letter you received, but a timely reaction is important even if there are none. If you ignore investigators completely, you may be forcibly arrested and the penalties you’ll ultimately face could be much more severe.
If the investigation is focusing on your documents and you are served with a subpoena to produce records, you may be able to use the protection of the Firth Amendment in some cases.
Therefore, the best course of action is to contact a good attorney right away and let him speak for you. He’ll understand the complex but relevant law and will be able to advocate for you in the most effective manner possible.
Once you retain an attorney, he will send a letter of representation to the investigators on your behalf. In the text of this letter, he’ll state that he is representing you and request that all communication regarding your case be directed to him. This way, the contact is taken care of professionally and successfully.
If you may be the target of a criminal investigation, don’t worry. Just don’t speak to the investigators and contact out New York criminal attorneys with Norman Spencer Law Group right away at (212) 577-6677.