Unemployment insurance provides a service for a great deal of Utah citizens every year. This program is incredibly important to people who have been laid off or face other life hardships that have prevented them from holding steady employment. Unfortunately, there are many cases each year of people who do not qualify for or need assistance claiming unemployment benefits from the state and the federal government. Those caught cheating the system in this way can be subject to some very harsh penalties, including high fines and lengthy jail sentences.
Our Utah unemployment fraud defense lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC have the skills and experience needed to fight for our clients charged with this crime and to reach the best possible resolution to their case. We understand how upsetting and confusing this process is and that just because you are charged with this crime does not mean you are guilty. We will be there every step of the way to answer your questions, be your fearless advocate, and fight to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free, confidential consultation, call our firm today at (801) 758-2287.
Unemployment Fraud as a Criminal Act in Utah
Unemployment benefits are a form of government assistance for individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own and need help making ends meet until they can find new work. According to Utah law, someone who uses false or misleading information to obtain unemployment benefits from the government may be guilty of the crime of unemployment fraud. Some unemployment fraud examples are lying about looking for a new job, using your name to allow someone else to file for benefits, or falsely claiming you are unemployed. The government relies on honest and truthful information from potential benefit recipients in order to ensure that people who need assistance will get help. People who lie or use misleading information to obtain benefits they do not qualify for will be criminally charged.
There is also a section of this code portion that relates to the actions of employers. Employers who provide misleading information in an attempt to prevent their former employees from receiving benefits to which they are entitled can be punished under this section. Furthermore, there are sections of the code related to the actions of employees within the Department of Workforce Services. If they willfully disclose the information of a person receiving unemployment, or if they use or sell the list of names of recipients of unemployment for political reasons, they can also be charged under this section. The government takes unemployment fraud of any kind extremely seriously. If you are an employee or employer accused of unemployment fraud, contact our Utah unemployment fraud defense attorney to help you fight your charges.
Unemployment Fraud Penalties in Utah
Depending on the precise part of the code you were charged with and the amount you are charged with stealing, the penalties you can face if convicted of unemployment fraud may vary. If you are convicted under the section criminalizing the provision of misleading or false information to the agency in order to receive benefits to which you were not entitled, your penalties will be determined by a multi-level system of punishments based on the amount of money obtained by the fraud scheme. It does not matter whether the money was actually obtained or if it was only sought to be obtained. This tiered penalty system is also applicable to employers who provide misleading or false information to prevent benefits from being given to former employees. For employers, the penalties are dependent on how much they sought to prevent the former employee from receiving. Our Utah unemployment fraud defense lawyer can help you assess your potential penalties and fight your charges.
In instances where the money sought or obtained by the fraud scheme was under $500, the charges are for a Class B misdemeanor, with potential penalties including a maximum jail time of 6 months and no greater than $100 in fines. If the money involved in the fraud scheme was $500 or more but under $1,500, the charges will be for a Class A misdemeanor with a prison term of no longer than 5 years and fines no more than $2,500. For cases where the amount is $1,500 or greater but under $5,000, you can be charged with a felony of the third degree with possible penalties of no more than a 5 year prison term and fines no greater than $5,000. Seeking to obtain or obtaining amounts of $5,000 or more is charged as a felony of the second degree and penalized by a maximum prison term of 15 years and fines no greater than $10,000.
Depending on your case, there may be additional penalties beyond the above-mentioned criminal charges. For example, if you work under a professional license or permit, you could lose that license or permit because you committed a fraud crime. You could also become ineligible to receive unemployment benefits, and finding a new job could be difficult with a criminal record. Our Utah unemployment fraud defense lawyer can help you understand the potential penalties in your case.
Defending Yourself Against Unemployment Fraud Charges in Utah
Unemployment fraud occurs when employers or employees submit misinformation or falsified information to the government in order to obtain unemployment benefits that they are not eligible for. It may be committed by employers who want to get out of paying into unemployment benefits funds or prevent employees from receiving benefits. The key to mounting a successful defense is good record keeping.
Receiving unemployment benefits turns on regular communications with the Department of Workforce Services. Benefit recipients must regularly update the Department with information demonstrating that they are actively searching for work. If you are ever accused or charged with providing fraudulent information, your personal records will help you prove your innocence. Things like proof of past employment, any job applications you have submitted, emails between you and potential employers, and anything else related to your employment situation will help you. Our Utah unemployment fraud defense lawyer will help you organize your records and mount the best defense possible.
Civil Penalties for Unemployment Fraud in Utah
Aside from the high fines and lengthy jail sentences that could come with being convicted of this crime, there are other consequences as well. You could lose or become ineligible to obtain a professional license, and you may be barred from receiving unemployment and other benefits in the future, even when you actually need them.
Civil penalties will typically be assessed before criminal penalties. The Department of Workforce Services in Utah employs a full-time division for the purpose of fraud detection and prevention. If they suspect you have fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits or provided other false information, they may open a case against you. You will be ordered to return any money you fraudulently receive in addition to penalty fees that could equal that same amount. Once your civil penalties have been processed, your case will be turned over to prosecutors to assess criminal charges.
For more information about the consequences of unemployment fraud, please reach out to our Utah unemployment defense attorney.
How an Unemployment Fraud Case Works in Utah
After your arrest for unemployment fraud, law enforcement will take you to your local police department for booking. Once your booking is complete, the police will hold you either in a cell at the station or at a local jail until it is time for your bail hearing and arraignment. The arraignment is a short proceeding where you are read your charges and you will enter a plea of not guilty or guilty. The bail hearing is where the judge decides if you can be released without bail, if bail should be set, or if you must be held in jail until your charges are resolved. Our Utah unemployment defense lawyer can help you through the arrest process and protect your rights and best interests.
A skilled criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC is likely to warn you to enter a plea of not guilty at arraignment while we gather more evidence and analyze the case. We can also make the case to the judge at your bail hearing that you should be released on your own recognizance without paying bail. After bail is resolved, we can work to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor. If no deal can be reached to your satisfaction, our skilled trial lawyers are always ready and able to defend your innocence at trial.
How Unemployment Fraud is Detected in Utah
The Utah Department of Workforce Services has an entire division devoted to finding out fraud and stopping it. This division is not directly affiliated with any law enforcement but may report to law enforcement if they discover instances of fraud. There are a number of methods used to uncover fraud. If you are under investigation for unemployment fraud, contact our Utah unemployment fraud attorneys. We can protect your rights and defend you against accusations of fraud.
Fraud can be reported as an anonymous tip over the phone or by email. Tips will be investigated, and if fraud is uncovered, you may face the consequences. The government also has access to several different databases to compare data and information at both national and state levels. These include databases about hiring and new hires from employers as well as other government records. If there is a mismatch of records or information is simply not adding up the way it should, you might be investigated for fraud. When the government suspects someone of committing fraud, they may also use tactics like in-person interviews or audits to determine if fraud is present.
It is crucial to seek an attorney’s help and guidance while you are under investigation, even if you have not been formally accused of or charged with unemployment fraud. Our skilled Utah unemployment defense attorney can help you explain your situation to investigators and hopefully have the investigation dropped. If the investigation remains open, we can help you to begin building your case in preparation to defend yourself against formal charges.
Call Our Utah Unemployment Fraud Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation
The police and prosecutors treat unemployment fraud very seriously, and a conviction or guilty plea can lead to some severe penalties, including jail sentences up to 15 years. At Overson Law, PLLC, our attorneys understand that there is more to every story than initially meets the eye. We will advocate on your behalf so that your side of the story is told and your case is brought to the best possible conclusion for you and your future. Call our office today at (801) 758-2287 for a free legal consultation.