As technology advances, fraud in many sectors becomes more prevalent, and this is true of unemployment. Fraudsters use phishing scams, data breaches, and other tactics to obtain information on individuals across the United States. Fraudulent unemployment insurance (UI) claims are filed every day, and it is a problem. What’s worse is there is unemployment fraud occurring in our own Arizona communities even though unemployment insurance fraud is a felony.
There are expensive consequences and harsh penalties for those who take advantage of unemployment assistance offered by the government. In some instances, a person might commit unemployment insurance fraud out of malice, but in other cases, good people make bad choices in times of desperation. If this sounds familiar, and you’ve been charged with unemployment fraud, you should contact a fraud lawyer for legal advice.
Ryan Garvey Attorneys is an established Arizona criminal law firm with 50 years of collective experience and successful cases among our legal team. We focus on aggressive criminal defense for our clients because we understand that everyone makes mistakes. We can help you build a strong defense to optimize the outcome of your case and protect your interest and, most importantly, defend your rights.
First and foremost, unemployment fraud is a felony. The following acts constitute unemployment fraud:
Unemployment insurance claims are audited quarterly, and companies are required to report newly hired employees, as well as rehired employees, on a weekly basis so that fraudulent insurance claims are identified and investigated regularly. In addition, the DES cross-checks identity verification information with the U.S. Department of Labor and shares identity patterns that throw up red flags of fraudulent activity. Furthermore, it is not hard to find instructions on how to report unemployment fraud, whether via an online form or a phone hotline. All state residents are encouraged to report anyone they suspect or know is committing unemployment fraud.
Not reporting earnings while on unemployment can lead to legal action being taken against you. Furthermore, you can be prosecuted for withholding or falsifying your earnings to increase or obtain unemployment benefits which can result in fines or even incarceration. If you’ve been overpaid for unemployment benefits, these funds may be recovered via state or federal tax refunds.
If you are caught making false statements, misrepresenting information, or failing to disclose details to get or increase your benefits, you could be facing Class 6 felony charges, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security may take civil or criminal action against you. Criminal charges could also lead to fines and imprisonment. You will also be required to repay the benefits you received illegally. This is referred to as restitution. In the case of unemployment benefits fraud, you will have to pay back any benefits that you were entitled to and those you received under false pretenses, in addition to fines and court fees. You will also be ineligible to receive additional benefits for one year.
If convicted, you could serve up to two years in prison and pay fines of up to $150,000 for every occurrence of false statements. That means if you received illegal benefit payments for 10 weeks under false pretenses, each week will be considered a false statement, and you could be facing up to the maximum 20-year prison sentence plus $150,000 for each of the 10 weeks. What’s more is that if you obtain more than $100,000 from any fraudulent means in AZ, you will be going to prison without eligibility for sentence suspension, probation, parole, pardon, or release until you serve your time.
Another consequence of committing unemployment fraud is ending up on the public record of court convictions, the Unemployment Insurance Fraud Convictions Quarterly Report. This report lists the names of people found guilty by investigations conducted by the UI unit from the Special Investigations Office of the DES and prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office, Child and Family Protection Division.
The Unemployment Insurance Fraud Convictions Quarterly Report indicates each person’s name, the amount they owe in restitution, and fees. The last three columns reveal the punishment they received for their conviction of unemployment insurance fraud, and they are labeled by months in jail/prison, years of probation, and community service. We aim for our clients to have zeros in all three penalty columns, and in many cases, we are successful.
When you are working with a knowledgeable criminal defense fraud attorney, you stand to receive deeply reduced charges, or, in many instances, a dismissal of the charges altogether. This is possible with a focused attorney who can build a sound case that shows the court the unique circumstances of your situation.
It is important to make every attempt to reduce your charges in these cases because it may be easier than you think to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor. A felony will follow you around for the rest of your life, and you will have a criminal record. This will impact you if you wish to gain employment or volunteer for a government agency, a school, or even some social groups and church events.
If this matters to you, you must do something while you still can. If you have already been arrested and charged with unemployment insurance benefit fraud, or even if you haven’t been arrested, call an attorney as soon as possible to discuss what you can do to potentially get a better outcome from your case than going it alone.
Sometimes acts of fraud occur by accident when recipients of unemployment benefits mistakenly enter the wrong information on their benefits applications. When this occurs, even though it’s a mistake, it can bring on severe consequences. If you realize you’ve unintentionally made an error in unemployment benefit reporting paperwork or misrepresented your situation in any way, you should seek to amend the erroneous information as soon as you can and contact a fraud lawyer to discuss the implications of your case. An unemployment benefits fraud attorney can also assist you in notifying the DES of the potential errors and help you clear your name from any criminal charges that may be waiting for you.
Many times, overpayments are not the fault of the accused. If you received a letter notifying you of a “Determination of Overpayment” but feel that you did nothing wrong or believe you were not overpaid, you can file an appeal within 15 days of receiving the notice. If the DES determines it was not an overpayment or it was not your fault if you were overpaid, they will issue a Waiver of Repayment for the errored funds or overpaid amount.
There are a couple of other legitimate defenses that a well-versed fraud attorney can use to defend unemployment fraud charges, such as:
Neither the stolen nor the mistaken identity defenses are hard to prove because they stand up better against the prosecution’s attempt at proving the defendant’s intentions were intentional. The prosecutor must prove the actions of the accused were not a simple mistake but were done out of intention and carried out advertently.
It’s always better when you have an attorney to represent your interests, guide you through the court system, and defend your rights. Every attorney at Ryan Garvey Attorneys has experience in both Arizona criminal law and fraud defense for white-collar workers. We focus on minimizing the consequences of criminal charges for our clients and have a great success rate. Our aggressive and confident approach allows us to not only litigate in the courtroom but also coach and advise our clients outside the courtroom. Our negotiation skills are spot on when it comes to getting charges reduced or dropped. Let us show you how we can help in your fraud case. Contact Ryan Garvey Attorneys today.
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