If BSI decides that you committed welfare fraud and that the overpayment was not just a mistake, you can be prosecuted. If you get notice of a criminal complaint, you should plead “not guilty” and ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you. Legal services programs do not represent people in criminal matters but they may help you and your lawyer figure out whether BSI has correctly computed what you owe.
If you plead guilty or you are found guilty, you will probably not have to go to jail, but the criminal record may make it harder for you to get a job, get credit, or get housing. A criminal record may also cause immigration problems. You may have to pay back the money the court decides you owe. If the court finds that you committed an IPV, your benefits can be stopped. If you are convicted of or plead guilty to fraud of $1,000 or more, you (and the other parent, in a two-parent household) may be permanently ineligible for TAFDC. Your children are still eligible. 106 C.M.R. § 706.305.