Unemployment Insurance Fraud
Unemployment insurance, also called UI or just unemployment, is a program that helps out-of-work Americans. Over the last several months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment through their state programs. This has resulted in an uptick in accusations of unemployment insurance fraud.
Unemployment insurance programs across the country have undergone changes during this time. Changes vary from state to state. For example, some increased the amount paid to recipients. Others loosened the requirement to conduct a job search while utilizing benefits. You can find nformation about changes to Colorado’s unemployment benefits here.
During this time, many UI programs experienced overwhelm. There were many people in need of benefits who did not receive them. Others had to wait an extended time before receiving them. State officials link the problems to the massive increase in demand for benefits. Additionally, outdated computer systems and inadequate staff to process requests played a role.
There were also cases in which state officials claimed that unemployment insurance fraud was to blame for the inefficiencies and confusion. Fraudulent unemployment claims did increase during this time. But that doesn’t mean everyone accused of fraud intentionally did something wrong.
What Should You Know If Accused of Unemployment Insurance Fraud?
The majority of fraud claims are linked to false statements or misrepresentations of a case. The goal of fraud is to collect unemployment when they do not qualify for the benefit.
There are several ways in which this can occur, including:
- Not reporting employment: If you find a job while collecting unemployment, you are responsible for reporting the income from that job.
- Submitting false information or a false identity: You are responsible for providing true and accurate information to your state’s unemployment office. This includes your identity, as well as details about your work situation.
- Failing to meet job search requirements: In most states, you must be actively looking for employment to qualify for unemployment benefits. However, they waived this requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people were expected to return their previous jobs once businesses began reopening.
Employers can also face accusations of fraud. Most cases of unemployment insurance fraud committed by employers are related to misclassifying workers, not reporting wages, or providing false information about employees that disqualify them for unemployment benefits.
What are Your Defense Options When Accused of Unemployment Insurance Fraud?
Every case is different. It’s important to discuss your options with your criminal defense attorney and choose the beset defense for your case. The most commonly used defenses include a lack of criminal intent and a lack of evidence.
It’s impossible to commit unemployment fraud accidentally. Making a mistake when you apply for unemployment is not a crime. Although mistakes can lead to accusations of a crime. The prosecution will need to show that you intentionally tried to misrepresent yourself or conceal information. This requires proof. So even if you did intentionally try to get away with fraud, the prosecution must have evidence of your actions to win its case against you.
What Penalties Do You Face If Prosecuted for UI Fraud?
If you are found guilty of UI fraud, you could be subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Laws regarding penalties vary from state to state, but you should expect any of the following penalties if the prosecution proves its case against you:
- Requirement to repay the benefits you collected on unemployment
- Jail time that varies based on your circumstances and your state laws
- Probation time
- Fines in addition to repayment requirements
If you have been accused of unemployment insurance fraud in Colorado or you believe someone suspects you committed fraud by collecting unemployment benefits, you need to speak to an attorney. A conviction for UI fraud can lead to serious penalties and have a severe effect on your future. To speak to someone about your situation, contact David Lindsey at 303.228.2270.