Denver Unemployment Fraud Lawyer
Unemployment fraud is a serious criminal charge in Colorado, and it is aggressively prosecuted. At Hebets & McCallin we understand the laws surrounding unemployment fraud and are ready to help defend you against these charges.
Unemployment fraud, simply put, is when someone lies, or withholds information, in order to receive or increase unemployment benefits. This crime is covered in Colorado Revised Statute §8-81-101:
(1) (a) Any person who makes false statement or representation of a material fact knowing it to be false, or knowingly fails to disclose a material fact, with intent to defraud by obtaining or increasing any benefit under articles 70 to 82 of this title or under an employment security law of any other state, of the federal government, or of a foreign government, either for himself or for any other person, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
While unemployment fraud is generally charged as a misdemeanor, it almost always carries felony charges with it, exposing defendants to a possible prison sentence. Some common accompanying charges are Computer Crime, Theft, and Fraud.
There are multiple ways in which someone can expose themselves to Unemployment Fraud charges. Some common examples of Unemployment Fraud Follow:
Failure to Report Employment
This is an example of when someone is legitimately obtaining unemployment benefits after losing a job. If that person then gets a new job and does not notify the Unemployment Office of the new status, this would qualify as Unemployment Fraud since they would continue to collect unemployment deposits despite being ineligible.
False or Stolen Information
You are also exposed to unemployment fraud charges if you use a fictitious name or information to obtain benefits. Let’s say you use your brother’s, sister’s, or spouse’s information and file a claim based on their situation. In any of these circumstances you would be exposed to unemployment fraud charges in addition to Fraud, Computer Crimes, and in some cases identity theft.
Misrepresenting Employment or Employment Efforts
People who lie about the number of hours that they work or underrepresent their pay are also at risk of Unemployment Fraud charges. Even if someone is eligible for some unemployment benefits, any benefits exceeding the legally allowable amount could be used in an Unemployment Fraud prosecution. Similarly, if someone indicated that they are actively looking for work as required under state law, but they are fabricating those efforts, that person would also be criminally exposed.
The legal defenses to any given Unemployment Fraud prosecution will depend upon the specific facts in that case, however there are defenses that commonly apply in these cases:
Lack of Criminal Intent
If you accidentally underreport your hours or wages without intending to defraud the government, the state would not be able to mount a successful prosecution. In Unemployment Fraud criminal intent is a necessary element, and your actions must have been taken knowingly in order for the statute to apply.
Lack of Evidence
As with any criminal prosecution, the government must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence does not implicate you, or simply missing in your case, then you should be found not guilty.
Penalties can be severe in these cases, including a criminal conviction, jail or prison sentences, intensive probation through a specialized economic crime unit probation officer, and significant fines. Unemployment Fraud also carries very significant financial penalties beyond fines associated with the criminal charge. Under the Colorado Employment Security Act, people convicted of Unemployment Fraud are required to pay either 50% or 65% interest on any benefits illegally obtained. This often turns into thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Unemployment Fraud often takes months if not years to be investigated and charged. If you believe that you or a loved one may be exposed to charges of unemployment fraud, you should immediately end all benefits and contact an attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney like the attorneys at Hebets & McCallin is often able to mitigate these penalties even if the evidence is stacked against you. We will work aggressively to defend your rights and put you in the best possible position to move forward with your life in a productive way.