If you are facing allegations of unemployment insurance fraud, you should engage a competent criminal defense lawyer who specializes in this particular practice area as soon as possible. The assistance and counsel of an attorney are essential when the case reaches trial because they will build solid defenses. By doing this, you stand a better chance of evading a conviction and a jail sentence, especially if the defense attorney's arguments discredit the evidence presented by the prosecution.
At Long Beach Criminal Attorney, we provide criminal defense services for criminal allegations of fraud in the Long Beach area. We offer our clients excellent services due to our extensive knowledge in the field of criminal law.
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An Overview of Unemployment Insurance Fraud Under California Law
California's PC 550 and Unemployment Insurance Code (UIC) 2101 both address fraud involving unemployment insurance. The California unemployment insurance program is particularly designed to help individuals who lost their jobs due to no fault on their own. It is intended to provide you with some financial reprieve while you seek employment elsewhere.
However, it does not apply to everyone, such as if you voluntarily resigned from your work or were fired under specific circumstances. The program would payout up to $450 each week for a period of up to a year. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) runs the unemployment insurance program.
Unemployment insurance fraud often occurs when:
- The defendant receives unemployment benefits to which he or she is not entitled, or
- In cases where the defendant could help someone else to illegally receive the benefits
This crime could be committed by giving misleading information, hiding material facts, or providing a fake identity to claim benefits.
Requirements For Receiving Unemployment Benefits
Benefits from unemployment insurance are available to temporarily support individuals who have lost their jobs. The most they could get each week would be $450, but that amount would depend on several other factors.
The EDD determines eligibility on a single-case basis, but some factors must be met to gain benefits, including:
- You've had a job for the last 18 months
- You're currently out of employment
- You're currently available and willing to work
- You're currently looking for a new job
Many individuals opt to take illegal advantage of the UI benefits. When this happens, they have engaged in insurance fraud. If you're aware that you are being investigated for unemployment insurance fraud, engage a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud
This type of fraud takes place when someone intentionally provides incorrect information to hide facts or provides false identification to claim or raise unemployment benefits. Both workers and employers have the potential to perpetrate this fraud offense. There are several scenarios in which an individual would perpetrate unemployment insurance fraud.
The most popular are as follows:
- Failure to inform EDD that you are receiving workers' compensation
- You have another job despite getting unemployment benefits
- You obtained unemployment benefits using a false identity
- You reside in California but seek to get benefits from another state
- You cash someone else's unemployment check without their consent
- You created a fake employer and described yourself as being eligible to receive benefits
- You're not looking for a new job, yet you claim to be on the form
- You provide false information about your employment status
Employers could also break California's laws against fraudulent unemployment insurance claims. This can happen when they present misleading information to the California EDD regarding why a worker was fired or about their salaries to avoid giving out unemployment insurance compensation.
They could also perpetrate fraud if they refuse to send payments to California EDD after deducting amounts from the worker's salary for legally mandated unemployment benefits.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud Investigation
In most cases, the California EDD is in charge of looking into claims of unemployment insurance fraud. Most of the leads emerge from the general public and their regional field offices, which handle the first applications. Alleged fraud could take several forms.
It can be that you're accused of using a fake employer identity. In this case, the EDD would contact the employer to confirm the information you provided. It can be claimed that you misrepresented the fact that you were actively seeking employment.
Once more, EDD would contact the prospective employers you specified on the form to confirm that you submitted a job application. If the claim is that you stole another person's identity, the investigator will often be able to find out the truth very quickly. Surveillance footage could also be used in some unemployment insurance fraud cases.
If there is a good reason to believe that insurance fraud has occurred, the fraud investigation unit would investigate the allegation and evidence. If they find enough evidence of insurance fraud throughout their investigation, they would forward their results to the prosecutor to persuade them to press charges.
Penalties For Unemployment Insurance Fraud
The potential consequences for unemployment fraud would vary based on the specific crime. Most California fraud-related cases are treated as "wobblers." This implies that the prosecution could file the case as a felony offense or a misdemeanor.
The prosecutor's decision on how to pursue the case would be based on the specific facts of the case, the amount in question, and your past criminal record. Unemployment insurance fraud can be charged under more than one section of California law.
California UIC 2101
For instance, it is a criminal offense under UIC 2101 to intentionally conceal material facts, make a false statement, or use a false identity, like a fake Social Security Number, to obtain benefits. This kind of fraud lawsuit is classified as a wobbler, and if you're found guilty of a misdemeanor violation of UIC 2101, you could face the following penalties:
- Serving jail time of up to 1 year
- A fine of up to $20,000
- Informal summary probation
If you're found guilty of a felony violation of UIC 2101, you would incur the following consequences:
- Serving 16 months, two years, or three years in a California prison
- Hefty cash fines of up to $20,000
- Formal felony probation
California PC 550
Penal Code 550 defines California's general insurance fraud law. When the prosecution decides to press charges under this statute, the legal consequences will be determined by the specific degree of fraud committed. Unemployment insurance fraud that amounts to approximately less than $950 is considered a misdemeanor offense and has a maximum penalty of $1,000 in fines and a six-month county jail sentence.
According to PC 550, fraud that amounts to over $950 is a felony charge, punishable by the following:
- Two, three, or five years in jail
- $50,000 in fines, or two times the value of the fraud
- Felony probation
It's worth noting that since unemployment insurance fraud is regarded as an offense of moral depravity, a conviction can harm any professional license you hold.
Also, if you're found guilty of fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits, you will have to reimburse the Employment Development Department for the funds as well as pay a thirty percent penalty on the total amount obtained. There could be circumstances where your defense attorney can make a deal with the EDD in which you pay reimbursements for them to drop their criminal investigation.
If you're a policyholder who obtained excessive benefits, you're legally obligated to repay all of the extra money you were given. Regardless of whether it was unintentional or if your previous employer effectively refuted your allegations, you must nonetheless pay back the money you obtained.
Your previous employer could appeal and fight your unemployment claims if they determined that you were unable to receive the benefits.
If they were successful in disputing your claims, you would be obliged to repay all unemployment benefits and compensation. If you don't pay the overpayments, they will remain on your record till they are repaid, and if they aren't paid, you may lose your eligibility for unemployment benefits down the road.
Normally, your state's unemployment agency would send you a letter notifying you that you had been overpaid. This notice would contain details including the sum you must repay, penalties (if any), the grounds for the overcharge, guidelines on how to make restitution, and also instructions on how you can appeal.
As a petitioner, you could also file a petition if you think the notice is inaccurate. You could be entitled to get a waiver using this method to avert the repayments. However, it is important to keep in mind that you can only request a waiver when you received the overpayment as a result of an error.
You aren't qualified to petition for an exemption and are still required to repay the funds you received when you obtained an overpayment as a result of providing the Department of Labor with inaccurate and misleading information.
Legal Defenses for Unemployment Insurance Fraud
A skilled attorney can utilize their skills to safeguard you against any claims that you are committing fraud against California's unemployment insurance system. Each case is different, and your defense strategy will vary depending on the unique elements of your situation.
The most frequently used legal defenses include:
No Intent to Commit Fraud
It's crucial to remember that it is the responsibility of the prosecution to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that you knowingly provided misinformation or credentials to receive benefits illegally. To put it another way, there has to be a clear intention to commit fraud.
It could be possible for your criminal defense lawyer to successfully argue that you did have a good reason to believe that your unemployment insurance petition was valid or that you mistakenly provided EDD with inaccurate information, in which case you made an honest error.
You stand a high chance of averting a conviction for breaking unemployment insurance fraud statutes if your attorney can raise any reasonable doubts regarding your intent.
Lack Of Evidence
Many prosecutors pursue fraud claims in a too hasty, snap judgment manner. Keep in mind that they must possess sufficient proof to establish your guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. Your attorney can argue that there is just not enough evidence to establish your culpability in some instances of unemployment fraud.
Plea Bargain Negotiations
There are examples of unemployment fraud in which your culpability is beyond dispute. To put it another way, the evidence presented is convincing and compelling, and no acceptable legal defenses exist. Your defense attorney could try to work out a good plea deal with California's state prosecutor in such kinds of circumstances.
If there are no flaws in the case that has been lodged against you, a plea deal is an efficient method for minimizing culpability. When you enter a no contest or guilty plea, the prosecution could decide to drop the charges and lessen the term.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud Related Offenses
The following are among the crimes related to fraud regarding unemployment insurance.
The offense of forging is described under California Penal Code 470. You are guilty of this crime if you intentionally change specific documents or forge signatures. The following actions are specifically prohibited by this code section:
- Sign using a fake identity or someone else's name
- Fake or alter someone else's signature or seal
- Modify, manipulate, or fabricate any formal codicil, will, or judgment record
- Falsely prepare, modify, manipulate, or counterfeit bonds, money orders, or checks among other documents
Creating or Obtaining a Fake Seal
The offense of counterfeiting a public seal is defined under California PC 472 as the act of creating, procuring, or possessing a false public emblem or seal, like the state seal of California.
Prosecutors have the option of charging this crime as a felony or a misdemeanor. The offense carries a prison sentence of a maximum of three years if charged as a felony offense.
The California legislation that specifies grand theft is Penal Code 487. This is defined as the illegal taking of another person's labor, money, or property worth $950 or more.
A person commits perjury when they knowingly lie under oath, according to California Penal Code 118. When convicted, a person faces a maximum of four years in state prison or jail, probation, and fines.
Find a Fraud Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me
If you are accused of committing unemployment insurance fraud in contravention of California's Unemployment Insurance Code 2101 or Penal Code 550, you can contact the Long Beach Criminal Attorney. We will evaluate the details of your case and begin formulating a defense strategy that can help in achieving the best possible result. You can reach us at 562-308-7807.