Every year, thousands of Utahns rely on unemployment insurance when they are unexpectedly laid off or come upon hard times. This program serves as an important lifeline to those who are struggling in our state. However, there are always some people who try to take advantage of this system by making claims for unemployment insurance payouts for which they do not actually qualify. This is a serious crime that can result in severe penalties like long jail sentences and high fines if you are caught.
At Overson & Bugden, our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense lawyers have years of experience successfully defending clients against charges that they have defrauded the unemployment insurance program. We understand that this charge can come with serious penalties, including long jail sentences and high fines, and can prevent you from claiming these vital benefits if you face future hardships. Our attorneys will work to have your side of the story told and bring your case to the most positive resolution possible. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.
Definition of the Crime of Unemployment Fraud in Salt Lake City
Under the Utah Criminal Code, “a person who makes a false statement or representation knowing it to be false, or knowingly fails to disclose a material fact, to obtain or increase a benefit or other payment under the unemployment compensation program of any state or of the federal government for any person is guilty of unemployment insurance fraud.” Examples of unemployment fraud include failing to report your earnings accurately, forging your weekly job search report, and making false claims regarding your unavailability to work. You can also get in trouble for allowing others to file in your name or filing in the name of someone else.
In addition, employers can be charged under this section of the code if they make a false statement or representation knowing it to be false or knowingly fail to disclose a material fact to prevent or reduce the payment of unemployment compensation benefits to an individual entitled to those benefits. There is also a provision in this section making it illegal for an employee of the Department of Workforce Services to make a willful disclosure of someone’s personal information. Finally, department employees can also be charged for obtaining a list of unemployment recipients and using it or allowing it to be used for a political purpose.
Unemployment benefits are important because they are intended to help people who have lost their jobs due to reasons or circumstances beyond their control. These benefits provide a financial safety net for out-of-work individuals until they can find new employment. If you have been charged with unemployment fraud in Utah, call our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense lawyer for help.
Penalties for Unemployment Fraud in Salt Lake City
The penalties for an unemployment fraud conviction will vary depending on what type of fraud you committed and how much money you intended to steal. For those beneficiaries who present false or misleading information to get their benefits, there is a tiered system of potential punishments dependent on the amount of money involved in the fraud. For cases where the amount obtained or sought to be obtained was less than $500, the charge is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $100.
If the amount obtained or sought to be obtained through the fraud is $500 or greater but less than $1,500, the crime will be charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. For amounts of $1,500 or more but less than $5,000, the charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Finally, amounts of $5,000 or greater obtained or sought will be charged as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
There are other consequences that may come with being convicted of or pleading guilty to this crime outside of jail time and fines. Because it is a crime of fraud, it could cause you to lose any professional licenses that you have and make it difficult for you to find a future job with a fraud conviction on your record. It could also make you ineligible for unemployment insurance or other government benefits in the future. If you have been accused of defrauding the government out of unemployment benefits, contact our Salt Lake City unemployment defense attorney for assistance.
Unemployment Fraud Penalties for Employers in Utah
Much like individual employees, employers can also be charged with unemployment fraud in Utah. The system of unemployment benefits receives funding from employers and business across the state. Also, the amount of money a person is eligible to receive in unemployment benefits is determined by how much money they earned in the last 18 months. If a former employer were to underreport those numbers, they could fraudulently prevent a person from getting the assistance they need. Penalties for employers are based on the same tiered system of punishments that applies to employees. Reach out to our Salt Lake City unemployment defense lawyer for help and guidance on this issue.
How Unemployment Fraud is Discovered in Salt Lake City
The State of Utah employs a full-time fraud detection and prevention unit. The job of this unit is to uncover unemployment fraud and recommend people for criminal prosecution. Utah takes unemployment fraud incredibly seriously and uses a number of methods to detect fraud:
- Public tips
- New hire data from employers from state and national databases
- Utah employer wage files
- Reviews and audits of benefit recipients
- In-person investigation
- Government record searches and matches
- Agreements with other states to report fraud
An investigation into unemployment fraud will probably not begin with the police. Instead, an investigation will likely start with the above-mentioned fraud detection division. Only after the government launches a civil claim against you will criminal proceedings begin. This means any charges or accusation of unemployment fraud will lead to a very lengthy legal battle in both civil and criminal court. For assistance with your own unemployment fraud charges, contact our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense attorney.
How an Unemployment Fraud Case Plays Out in Salt Lake City
The process of your unemployment fraud case will most likely begin in a civil hearing before it becomes a criminal matter. It is important to keep in mind that accusations of unemployment fraud come with both civil and criminal penalties. Our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense lawyer is here to help you at each step of each proceeding.
Most cases of unemployment fraud in Utah will begin in civil court. Once the Utah Department of Workforce Services suspects you have committed unemployment fraud, they will initiate civil proceedings against you. If they are successful, you may be required to pay back all the money you allegedly obtained through fraudulent means. You may also be made to pay a civil penalty fee that could be as much as equal to the amount of benefits you fraudulently received. Essentially, you may have to pay back twice the money you obtained. In addition, you may be banned from receiving unemployment benefits for a period of time. This can put a severe financial strain on someone who needs those benefits to make ends meet.
After the civil proceedings are over, the Department of Workforce Services can send your case to the Utah Attorney General’s Office for criminal prosecution. Whether or not you are criminally prosecuted will depend on the nature of your case and the actions of the Department of Workforce Services. Our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense attorney can help you navigate this process and determine what kind of help you need.
Unless the police choose to release you on a summons with a court date, which is unlikely given this particular crime, you will be arrested and taken to the local police station for the booking process. After you are booked, you will likely be held in the station’s holding cell or at the local detention center until your arraignment and bail hearing. At the arraignment, the charges are read against you and you are asked to plead guilty or not guilty. An experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson & Bugden will likely advise you to plead not guilty at this point while we collect evidence and assess the strength of the case.
Your bail hearing will typically occur at or around the same time as your arraignment. The judge can decide whether to hold you in jail until the underlying matter is resolved, release you on no bail, or set bail, the most likely option. Our bail hearing attorneys will work to get you before a judge as quickly as possible and to get you released on reasonable or no bail.
After this, our lawyers can attempt to work out a deal with the prosecutors if you wish. If you have no prior criminal record, you may be eligible to enter into a pre-trial diversion program, where your charges will be dropped if you complete it successfully. We can also try to work out a deal where your charges are downgraded or you plead guilty in exchange for a lenient sentencing recommendation. If a deal does not appeal to you, we are ready to fight for you innocence at trial. Call our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense attorney for help determining the best defense for your case.
Defenses to Charges of Unemployment Fraud in Salt Lake City
As mentioned above, unemployment fraud involves using false or misleading information to obtain unemployment benefits. There are many different ways that information can be faked in order to receive benefits. There are also many different ways to defend against these accusations.
For example, unemployment benefit recipients must frequently report to the Department of Workforce Services on their job search status. If you are suspected of falsifying this information or not searching for work at all, you may face unemployment fraud charges. The best way to defend against these accusations is to keep meticulous records of your job hunting. This includes copies of all the job applications you have submitted, any email correspondence between you and potential employers, and records of any job interviews you may have had.
Keeping records of your past employment and your search for new employment is crucial to defending yourself against unemployment fraud charges. Call our Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense lawyer for help crafting the best defense possible for your case.
Call Our Salt Lake City Unemployment Fraud Defense Lawyers Today
Unemployment fraud is a serious crime that can have lasting implications on your life beyond even just the potential criminal penalties like jail times and fines. You could find yourself in a situation where you cannot get a job with a fraud conviction on your record and you are also banned from receiving government benefits needed to support you and your family. At Overson & Bugden, our compassionate Salt Lake City unemployment fraud defense lawyers will fight to get this charge downgraded or dismissed so that you can move on with your life. Call our firm today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.