People v. Camillo, C001670

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSPARKS; PUGLIA, P.J., and BLEASE
Citation244 Cal.Rptr. 286,198 Cal.App.3d 981
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Mattia Shanti CAMILLO, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. C001670,C001670
Decision Date22 February 1988

Page 286

244 Cal.Rptr. 286
198 Cal.App.3d 981
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Mattia Shanti CAMILLO, Defendant and Appellant.
No. C001670.
Court of Appeal, Third District, California.
Feb. 22, 1988.

[198 Cal.App.3d 985]

Page 287

Steve C. Benton, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for defendant and appellant.

[198 Cal.App.3d 986] John K. Van de Camp Atty. Gen., Steve White, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Gary A. Binkerd, Cynthia G. Besemer and Kate Killeen, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

SPARKS, Associate Justice.

This case poses two questions about the welfare fraud statute. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 10980.) The first is whether obtaining more than $400 worth of welfare benefits by false representations for a number of consecutive months constitutes a single felony or only a series of misdemeanors. Welfare and Institutions Code section 10980, subdivision (c) provides that if the total amount of such aid is $400 or less, the crime is a misdemeanor and if more, an alternate felony. We hold that the crime is a felony when those benefits are illegally obtained pursuant to one general scheme. The second is whether the classification of such a crime as a felony violates a recipient's constitutional right to due process and equal protection. We hold that it does not and consequently reject the constitutional challenge as well.

Defendant Mattia Shanti Camillo falsely obtained welfare benefits in excess of $2,900 over a period of nine months but never received more than $400 in any one month. She was charged with a single felonious count of violation of Welfare and Institutions Code section 10980 and a separate felony count of perjury under Penal Code section 118. 1 After a court trial, she was found guilty of both crimes. Imposition of sentence was suspended and defendant was placed on probation on condition she be incarcerated in the county jail for 30 days and pay a fine. 2 Defendant appeals

Page 288

from the order granting probation, contending that the Legislature did not intend to subject recipients in her circumstances to felony punishment for welfare fraud, and that her felony conviction for welfare [198 Cal.App.3d 987] fraud is unconstitutional in any event. Because neither contention is persuasive, we shall affirm the judgment.
FACTS

The facts are uncomplicated and uncontroverted. Defendant was a recipient of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Food Stamps. Such a recipient is required to submit monthly reports stating her income, and to undergo periodic interviews. During those interviews a recipient must be readvised of the reporting requirements and reaffirm her eligibility. During the period from May 1984 to February 1985, defendant was employed by Ponce Bakery. She submitted monthly reports declaring some, but not all, of her income. She reported income of $1,422.30, and failed to report $1,759.03. Defendant had a recertification interview in December 1984, at which time she reaffirmed her eligibility status and was readvised of her reporting responsibilities. As a result of her failure to report all of her income, defendant was overpaid AFDC and Food Stamp benefits in excess of $2,900. The trial court found that defendant acted pursuant to a single intention to commit a series of thefts and found her to be guilty of one count of felonious welfare fraud, and one count of perjury. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION
I

Defendant failed to report her income over a period from May 1984 to February 1985. When defendant's criminal activity commenced it was governed by Welfare and Institutions Code section 11483 [all further undesignated statutory references are to this code]. The version of that statute in effect during 1984 provided: "Whenever any person has, by means of false statement or representation or by impersonation or other fraudulent device, obtained aid for a child not in fact entitled thereto, the person who obtained the aid shall be punished as follows: [p] (1) If the amount obtained or retained is four hundred dollars ($400) or less, by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both such imprisonment and fine. [p ] (2) If the amount obtained or retained is more than four hundred dollars ($400), by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year. [p] When the allegation is limited to failure to report not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) of income or resources, or the failure to report the presence of an additional person or persons in the household, all actions necessary to secure restitution shall be brought against persons in violation of this section as provided in Sections 12250 and 12850. Such action for restitution may be satisfied by sending a registered [198 Cal.App.3d 988] letter requesting restitution to the last address at which the person was receiving public assistance." (Stats.1983, ch. 711, § 4, pp. 2704-2705.)

In 1984, the Legislature rearranged the statutory scheme for welfare fraud, effective on January 1, 1985. (Stats.1984, ch. 1448.) Summarizing this enactment, the Legislative Counsel noted: "Existing law provides for various criminal offenses concerning the receipt of, or the attempt to receive, aid under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and under the Food Stamp Program. [p] This bill would modify these provisions by,

Page 289

among other things, applying these offenses to all aid programs, including the AFDC program, the Food Stamp Program, and county aid and relief programs." (Legis. Counsel's Dig., Sen. Bill No. 2171 (1984 Reg. Sess.) Summary Dig., pp. 520-521.)

In order to accomplish this objective the Legislature centralized the penalty provisions for welfare fraud into one statute, section 10980, and made it applicable to all welfare programs. That section was enacted to provide in relevant part: "(a) Any person who, willfully and knowingly, with the intent to deceive, makes a false statement or representation or knowingly fails to disclose a material fact in order to obtain aid under the provisions of this division or who, knowing he or she is not entitled thereto, attempts to obtain aid or to continue to receive aid to which he or she is not entitled, or to receive a larger amount than that to which he or she is legally entitled, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both such imprisonment and fine.

"(b) Any person who knowingly makes more than one application for aid under the provisions of this division with the intent of establishing multiple entitlements for any person for the same period or who makes an application for such aid for a fictitious or nonexistent person or by claiming a false identity for any person is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both such imprisonment and fine, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or a fine or not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both such imprisonment and fine.

"(c) Whenever any person has, by means of false statement or representation or by impersonation or other fraudulent device, obtained or retained aid under the provisions of this division for himself or herself or for a child not in fact entitled thereto, the person obtaining such aid shall be punished as follows:

"(1) If the total amount of such aid obtained or retained is four hundred dollars ($400) or less, by imprisonment in the county jail for a [198 Cal.App.3d 989] period of not more than six months, a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both such imprisonment and fine.

"(2) If the total amount of such aid obtained or retained is more than four hundred dollars ($400), by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of 16 months, two years, or three years, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both such imprisonment and fine; or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both such imprisonment and fine." (Stats.1984, ch. 1448, § 2, pp. 5075-5076.) 3

In the 1984 reorganization, section 11483 was amended to read: "Except as specified in Section 11483.5, whenever any person has, by means of false statement or representation or by impersonation or other fraudulent device, obtained aid for a child not in fact entitled thereto, the person obtaining such aid shall be subject to prosecution under the provisions of Chapter 9 (commencing with Section 10980) of Part 2. [p ] When the allegation is limited to failure to report not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) of income or resources, or the failure to report the presence of an additional person or persons in the household, all actions necessary to secure restitution shall be brought against persons in violation of Section 10980. The action for restitution may be satisfied by sending a registered letter requesting restitution to the last address at which the person was receiving public assistance." (Stats.1984, ch. 1448, § 6, pp. 5078-5079.)

Defendant's fraudulent behavior commenced during the period when it was governed by former section 11483, and it continued

Page 290

into a [198 Cal.App.3d 990] period when it was governed by section 10980. That fact does not affect defendant one way or the other. " 'When a statute, although new in form, re-enacts an older statute without substantial change, even though it repeals the older statute, the new statute is but a continuation of the old. There is no break in the continuous operation of the old statute, and no abatement of any of the legal consequences of...

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