In June 2020, Fort Bend County launched the COVID-19 Rental, Mortgage, and Utilities Assistance Program with $19.5 million in funding from the federal CARES Act. The fund provides rent and/or utility assistance for up to twelve months or until the funds are exhausted. Each approved applicant can receive up a maximum of $2,000 per month (up to $1,500 for rent or mortgage payments and up to $500 for utilities).
Rental Assistance Fraud in Fort Bend
The rental assistance program is for Fort Bend residents who cannot pay rent or utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are strict eligibility requirements for recipients to ensure that the funds are going to the households with the most need. To receive funds, you must complete an application and meet the following requirements:
- Fort Bend County resident;
- Pre-COVID -19 household income is at or below 80% of the median income in the area;
- Inability to pay due to employment loss/reduction or loss of income due to economic impact of COVID-19;
- Unable to pay rent after April 1, 2020;
- Not have received rental assistance from any other source for the same period of time as requested from this program; and
- Your landlord or mortgage company agrees to participate in the program.
If you are a tenant or landlord and falsify information on the application, you are committing fraud and can face criminal prosecution. It is illegal under Texas state law to lie or omit information in order to receive rental assistance funds that you are not entitled to.
Rental assistance fraud charges are taken extremely seriously by prosecutors, and the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office will investigate all potential CARES Act fraud cases.
What Charges Could You Face for Rental Assistance Fraud in Fort Bend?
There is not one single criminal charge for rental assistance fraud in Texas. Instead, fraud refers to a category of crimes that involve the deliberate deception of another person intended to deprive the victim of a legal right, property, or money. Rather than using force to steal something of value, when you commit fraud, the individual uses deception to steal property.
Some of the potential charges that you could face for committing rental assistance fraud in Fort Bend County include:
- Tampering with a Governmental Record;
- Forgery of a Governmental Record;
- Fraudulent Destruction, Removal, or Concealment of Writing;
- Fraudulent Use of Identifying Information (Identity Theft);
- Securing Execution of a Document by Deception;
- Attempt to Defraud; and
- Money Laundering.
If you are facing charges of defrauding Fort Bend County, you should reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney.
What are the Penalties for Rental Assistance Fraud in Fort Bend?
Being convicted of rental assistance fraud can have long-lasting consequences on you and your family’s life. The penalties for rental assistance fraud cases vary greatly depending on the unique circumstances and the number of funds taken. In general, the more money that was taken, the more serious the penalty. The fraud charges could be classified anywhere from Class C misdemeanors to first-degree felonies.
In addition to fines and prison time, you will have to return some or all of the program funds. A conviction will become part of your criminal record and affect your reputation in the community and relationships with family and friends. Education and professional opportunities can be forever affected by a criminal conviction.
Defense of Rental Assistance Fraud in Fort Bend
Fraud charges are complex, but there are numerous defenses that a skilled attorney can raise in your defense, such as lack of fraudulent intent. The exact defense will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Whatever charges you are facing, having an experienced attorney on your side can significantly impact the outcome of your case.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is being investigated for rental assistance fraud, you should reach out to a Fort Bend criminal defense attorney experienced in fighting state fraud charges. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will protect your rights and provide a skilled and aggressive defense. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.