Unmasking Unemployment Insurance Fraud: Common Penalties and Defenses
In recent years California has experienced a rise in unemployment insurance fraud—a crime with severe penalties for those convicted of the offense. This blog delves into the scope of unemployment insurance and the deceptive practices involved in fraudulent claims.
As criminal defense lawyers, we want to shed light on the details of unemployment insurance fraud and share important information regarding defense strategies. If you are facing unemployment insurance fraud charges, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal process is essential.
Understanding Unemployment Insurance Fraud
What Is Unemployment Insurance Fraud?
Unemployment insurance is a safeguard designed to support individuals during times of unemployment. Unfortunately, some exploit this safeguard using fraudulent means such as:
- Falsifying information
- Misrepresenting their employment status
- Failing to report income while receiving benefits
It is not uncommon for someone to collect benefits despite being gainfully employed or lying on an unemployment benefits application.
To prove a case of unemployment insurance fraud, the prosecution has the burden of proof to show that the defendant:
- Willfully misrepresented, falsified, or concealed information
- With the intent to gain unemployment insurance benefits
Significantly, unemployment insurance fraud often involves allegations of theft, forgery, and possible perjury. Such facts may also expose an individual to potential criminal liability for grand theft under California Penal Code 487, forgery under California Penal Code 470, perjury under California Penal Code 118, and conspiracy under California Penal Code 182.
Potential Penalties for Unemployment Insurance Fraud
Unemployment insurance fraud can be considered a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances. Penalties may include:
- Probation, and
- Repaying the wrongfully obtained benefits.
If the case involves a more serious offense, the individual charged with unemployment insurance fraud may face a lengthy prison sentence depending on the extent of the fraudulent conduct.
Additionally, the Employment Development Department (EDD) may impose administrative penalties, such as ineligibility to receive benefits along with penalties. Importantly, a conviction can lead to professional discipline as the crime involves moral turpitude.
Defenses Against Unemployment Insurance Fraud Charges
An effective defense against charges of unemployment insurance fraud may attack the elements of the crime. One way of accomplishing this is to present evidence that shows a lack of intent to commit insurance fraud, including:
- Demonstrating absence of deliberate intent to deceive or defraud.
- Proving inadvertent errors or omissions in reporting information.
- Establishing good faith reliance on advice or information provided by the EDD.
Challenging the prosecution’s evidence and witness credibility can be an effective defense strategy against unemployment insurance fraud charges. The defense can also create reasonable doubt regarding the allegations, weakening the prosecution’s case. Experienced criminal defense attorneys use legal strategies to suppress or exclude crucial evidence as inadmissible.
The defendant may also assert they were not responsible for the fraudulent activity by presenting evidence of mistaken identity or identity theft. Chief among such evidence includes reports to law enforcement about identity theft and cooperating with the authorities.
Have a Proven Attorney on Your Side
Individuals facing unemployment insurance fraud charges should seek counsel from an experienced Los Angeles insurance fraud defense attorney to protect their rights. A qualified criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with fraud cases, providing strategic guidance that is tailored to the specific facts of each case.
Considering the potential severity of the penalties for unemployment insurance fraud in California, it is important to understand the available defenses in such cases. Your criminal defense attorney plays a vital role in protecting your rights and attaining the best possible outcome.
The Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP team in Los Angeles is dedicated to advocating for the rights of those in Southern California. If you are facing charges for unemployment insurance fraud or other white collar crimes, call us at (213) 688-0460 today for a free initial consultation with a member of our team.