As a result of the high number of people collecting unemployment insurance during these tough economic times, the New York State Department of Labor has been aggressively pursuing those who take advantage of the system. Last week, State Police arrested Lea King and Mark Pritchard on unemployment insurance fraud charges.
Like most people arrested for unemployment fraud, King and Pritchard were caught working while also collecting a salary. King, 29, allegedly received over $10,000 in unemployment insurance over the span of a year and a half. Pritchard, 43, allegedly received over $3,000.
Collecting unemployment benefits while working, claiming to be someone else when you apply for benefits, failing to report other sources of income, or working on a cash basis all constitute unemployment fraud. In general, any deliberate misrepresentation of your employment status or identity is considered fraudulent. In addition, those receiving unemployment benefits are required to be actively seeking work. If you lie about seeking employment or about your ability to work, that would also be considered a crime.
In 2014, the Department of Labor reported an estimated $10.3 billion in improper unemployment insurance payments nationwide. According to the Department of Labor, New York alone had an estimated fraud rate of 4.1 percent over the last three years, with an estimated $197 million in improper payments in 2014.
The penalties for unemployment fraud can include heavy fines (both paying back the unemployment that was fraudulently collected and incurring a large criminal fine), possible jail time, probation, and a criminal record. Hiring the right defense attorney to provide a strong legal defense is critical to beating the charges especially at the beginning of any criminal investigation. If you are facing fraud charges in the State of New York, contact The Rosenblum Law Firm at 888-815-3649 or email us for assistance.