New York Penal Law 195.20: New York State’s Public Corruption Crime of Defrauding the Government

Its not likely that either New York State prosecutors or New York criminal defense attorneys see many of these types of offenses as they are more commonly prosecuted by Federal prosecutors, but New York State has a government defrauding statute on the books. Codified in New York Penal Law 195.20, it is a felony crime to defraud the government. Defrauding the Government is a Class E felony. Like all felonies of this severity or level, a conviction for this offense does not carry a mandatory term of incarceration, but due to the nature of the crime it certainly would not be surprising for a judge to sentence a convicted defendant to prison. If that happened, the exposure an accused would face would be as great as one and one third to four years in a New York State prison.

Now that we know the name of the crime and its potential sentences, what is the offense of New York Penal Law 195.20 and how does one violate or run afoul of the law? You are guilty of Defrauding the Government when, being a public servant, you engage in a scheme with the intent to defraud the State of New York or government instrumentality in New York or you engage in this ongoing course of conduct to obtain property from New York State by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises. Additionally, you actually have to obtain property valued in excess of $1,000.00.

As clear as the above definition may be, it is not a verbatim copy from the statute (although it is close). Obviously you will need to vet this with your own criminal defense attorney and apply the evidence in your case, or lack of evidence, to the statute. Having said that, it is also important to keep in mind the following. First, “property” is a broad term. That is, property can be money, furniture, computers or a wide range of things. Further, even if your alleged conduct was not ongoing and systematic, as required by PL 195.20, you may have violated other crimes found in the New York Penal Law. If, for example, the value of the property obtained or stolen exceeded $1,000.00, $3,000.00 or $50,000.00, you would face separate crimes of Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, Third Degree Grand Larceny and Second Degree Grand Larceny respectively. These felonies are equal to and significantly worse than Defrauding the Government from a punishment standpoint. Beyond these crimes you could also face felonies relating to Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Forgery, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Bribery, Rewarding Official Misconduct and numerous other offenses. Keep in mind these crimes may carry sentences as great as four, seven or fifteen years in prison.

Whether you are the target of an investigation or you are arrested, before considering speaking with a detective or prosecutor with a District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office take a deep breath and think it through. Remember, the words you use or information you provide will be used against you. It is highly unlikely that an admission, apology or even cooperation will be fruitful to your defense at that initial stage. Whether it can and will be beneficial at a later date is something to ascertain and weigh with your counsel.

A wealth of information on all of the New York White Collar crimes listed above is available at Additionally, searching the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com will reveal further analysis of the legal decisions that interpret these laws. Should you seek information regarding Federal crimes, the link to Saland Law PC’s Federal Public Corruption information page is also available.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense founded by former Manhattan prosecutors and staffed by prosecutors who collectively served as Federal prosecutors and Assistant District Attorneys. The New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC represent clients in all white collar crimes and public corruption cases throughout New York City and the greater area.

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