Fraudulent unemployment claims, mostly the ones made during the coronavirus pandemic, could cost the system up to $25 billion. Officials are determined not to let fraud impair payments to needy people. Because prosecutors are so aggressive, it is important to seek help for unemployment fraud charges.
The problem ranges from individuals making false statements to well-organized criminals who file large numbers of fraudulent applications. Some inmates of a Pennsylvania county jail are under investigation for allegedly collecting unemployment benefits while they were incarcerated. On the other end of the scale, a Nigerian criminal gang allegedly stole personal information from thousands of people. The gang filed fraudulent claims in a half-dozen states which totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, according to investigators.
“People are losing their cars, their homes, and they are moving back in with other family because they cannot pay for things,” observed unemployment advocate John Tirpak. “It is quite a crisis for many people, and it is not a few isolated incidences.”
Help for unemployment fraud charges begins with understanding exactly what fraud is. In a nutshell, fraud is a misrepresentation of a current material fact which is designed to produce a pecuniary benefit. Let’s look at these elements more closely:
- Misrepresentation usually means making a false statement or withholding information. Normally, the misrepresentation need only be intentional. That’s different from malicious.
- Misrepresentation of a future fact, even if that misrepresentation is a bald-faced lie, is not a fraud. Bad checks are a good example. A postdated check is not a bad check. The maker essentially admits that there are insufficient funds in the account now, but there may be sufficient funds later.
- Pecuniary benefits always involve money. That could be obtaining money or not spending money. Tax fraud is illegal even if the fraudsters simply reduce their tax liability.
New York’s Deceptive Practices Act, which controls most fraud claims, does not require additional elements, such as reliance. Therefore, fraud claims are rather easy to prove in court.
Types of Unemployment Fraud Prosecutions
These prosecutions usually involve the application itself or the follow-up to the application. During their initial reviews, investigators often look for fraud badges, such as:
Failure to report all income, such as a freelancing gig or money from odd jobs,
- Falsely claiming school attendance,
- Manufacturing job searches,
- Social Security Number fraud, typically using someone else’s information to either work or claim benefits,
- Not reporting the inability to work due to sickness or severe injury, and
- Failure to report workers’ compensation or other benefit payments.
Unemployment fraud could mean prison time in New York, largely depending on the monetary amount involved.
Getting Help for Unemployment Fraud Charges
Fraud cases are quite serious. Fortunately, since they are nonviolent, there are a number of possible resolutions, especially if the defendant has no prior criminal record.
Pretrial diversion is usually available in these instances. If the defendant makes restitution, which normally involves returning some benefits, and meets some other program requirements, prosecutors dismiss the case. There is usually no downside to pretrial diversion. If the defendant fails to qualify or complete the program, prosecutors simply pick up where they left off.
Deferred adjudication is a high risk, high reward proposition. Individuals who do not qualify for pretrial diversion, perhaps because of a criminal background, usually qualify for deferred adjudication. The judge sentences the defendant to probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case. As a result, the defendant has no conviction record.
If the defendant violates probation, the judge can sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum. So, an attorney should carefully review your case before you accept deferred adjudication.
Reach Out to an Experienced Lawyer
Prosecutors are aggressively going after accused unemployment fraudsters. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.