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Unemployment fraud is a serious issue that could result in financial penalties and, if the fraud was severe enough, even jail time.
What Constitutes Unemployment Fraud?
The New York State Department of Labor issues unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, which are intended to help those citizens who are out of work.
Many people take advantage of this system, either unknowingly or knowingly. The Department of Labor lists all the most common examples of UI benefits fraud.
Fraud almost always involves providing some sort of false information for your unemployment claim. This could mean you weren’t honest about how your job ended, you didn’t disclose important information on your benefits application, or you said you were ready to work so you could claim UI benefits when you actually weren’t able to work at that time.
Working while collecting unemployment benefits, without mentioning the work in your claim, is another serious issue. Note that it’s not working that is the problem. You’re allowed to take work opportunities while you’re receiving UI benefits. You simply need to note them in your claim on the weeks when you do work so that the Department of Labor can deduct the right amount from your claim that week. Otherwise, it would be an overpayment.
What Happens After an Overpayment?
If the Department of Labor determines that you received more money than you should have, it will send you a notice of the overpayment, which includes information on how you can correct the situation.
At this point, you haven’t been charged with anything. The Department of Labor evaluates the situation to decide whether it feels you intentionally made false statements to receive the overpayment.
If the Department of Labor believes that you didn’t intentionally receive the overpayment, it will require that you pay back the amount you were overpaid.
If the Department of Labor believes that you provided false information to receive an overpayment, it will assess a monetary penalty that you’ll need to pay back along with the amount that you were overpaid. For overpayments of $666.66 and under, you’ll have a monetary penalty of $100. For overpayments above that amount, you’ll have a monetary penalty of 15 percent of your total overpayment.
Although the Department of Labor hasn’t charged you with anything in this situation, it may do so if you fail to pay back the overpayment along with the monetary penalty, if you received one.
If you’re facing a monetary penalty, you can request a hearing. It’s a good idea to consult with an unemployment fraud lawyer regarding your situation, as he can advise you on your case, prepare a defense and even defend you at the hearing. This will give you a better chance of success, since unemployment fraud lawyers are familiar with the system.
Are There More Severe Penalties for Unemployment Fraud?
Depending on the severity of the alleged unemployment fraud, it’s possible that you could be charged in criminal or civil court. In recent years, the state has had a task force designed specifically to fight unemployment fraud.
It’s doubtful that you’ll be charged for one simple overpayment. But if the alleged unemployment fraud occurred over the course of months or years and involves a large amount of money, then you may face other penalties.
The most likely outcome of a guilty verdict is restitution, meaning you pay back what you owe, plus a fine. There is the chance of either jailtime or probation, although the former is unlikely in all but the most serious cases.
Although the state usually focuses on getting its money back, plus a fine, when you’ve received an overpayment, it’s different if your unemployment fraud involved identity theft. This would be the case if the prosecutor alleged that you used someone else’s identity to claim UI benefits.
You could end up with state and federal charges for identity theft, and there’s also the potential for computer fraud charges. This could have major repercussions, including jailtime.
Protecting Yourself with an Unemployment Fraud Lawyer
Whether you’re currently being charged, investigated or you’ve received a notice of overpayment, an unemployment fraud lawyer can help.
It’s in your interest to be proactive in this type of situation. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner he can start advising you on the correct steps to take and preparing your defense.
Unemployment fraud is a difficult charge to defend yourself against alone. An experienced lawyer will fully understand the system to provide you with the representation. Your lawyer can defend you in court to fight the charges or talk to the prosecutor to negotiate a plea bargain. Contact a Long Island unemployment fraud lawyer today to get started.