If you have been charged or believe you are about to be charged with California unemployment insurance fraud ("UI fraud"), it is important to move quickly to contact an experienced, local defense attorney with expertise in this very complex practice area.
Here at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we understand the concern of many that the surge in unemployment fraud in the L.A. area is costing taxpayers dearly and delaying legitimate payments. But we also understand that false accusations of UI fraud abound and that the rights of defendants must always be respected.
If you are facing a charge of unemployment insurance fraud in the Los Angeles or Southern California area, do not hesitate to contact us for help at 424-333-0943.
About California Unemployment Insurance
In California, the unemployment benefits system is managed by an agency called the Employment Development Department (EDD), utilizes both federal and state funding, and has been in existence since 1935.
The purpose of California's UI program is to assist people who, for reasons not attributable to any misconduct on their part, lose their jobs. The idea is to help people over a "rough spot" until they secure a new job. To qualify for benefits, all of the following must apply:
- You are currently unemployed or have had your hours cut to below full time against your wishes.
- You are actively seeking new employment.
- You are ready, willing, and able to work.
- Your last day of employment is not more than 18 ago.
In some cases, you can still file for benefits even if you quit your job or were fired, but this is not typical. You can never file in anticipation of being laid off but must wait until your employment actually ends.
What Is Unemployment Insurance Fraud?
Unemployment insurance fraud is handled under California Penal Code Sections 2101 through 2129. It has many specific forms, which the statute spells out, but in general, any false statement or purposeful omission made so as to increase the chances of securing unemployment benefits or of increasing the amount received is UI fraud.
Specific examples of UI fraud include:
- Collecting unemployment benefits while employed. Often, the individual was unemployed when he/she filed, but simply did not report the change in employment status to the EDD.
- Misstating the reason you became unemployed, normally saying you were laid off when, in fact, you were fired.
- Not reporting other forms of compensation you are receiving, such as workers comp, social security, or pension payments.
- Using a fake or stolen name and personal information in order to wrongfully receive UI benefits. Or, inventing a fake employer and listing yourself as a laid off employee.
- Falsely claiming you are diligently looking for work, when you are actually not doing so.
- Trying to cash another person's UI check, not having received their permission to do so.
- Collecting benefits from another state, while living in California (or vice versa).
- For employers, falsifying the reason your employee left or misinforming the EDD about your employer's true wages. Or, withholding deductions from an employee but never paying them to the EDD.
Penalties That May Apply
UI fraud can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the nature of the alleged violation and on the defendant's past criminal record.
As a misdemeanor, a conviction can lead to:
- A year in county jail
- A maximum fine of $20,000
Felony-level UI fraud is punishable by:
- 16 months to 3 years in state prison
- Up to $20,000 in fines
Additionally, all unemployment insurance fraud sentences require you to pay back in full the money taken by fraud, and as government debt, repayment will take priority over all other debts.
And since unemployment insurance fraud normally coincides with theft charges, you could receive up to 3 more years in prison and up to $10,000 in extra fines based on violations of theft statutes. You could also be convicted for multiple instances of UI fraud and, if applicable, for identity theft, which will increase your sentence even more.
Finally, civil consequences could include:
- Being denied any future unemployment insurance benefits or, at minimum, having any future claims you file meticulously scrutinized.
- Losing your professional license, either temporarily or permanently.
- Having difficulty in finding a new job due to having a criminal record.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
The elements of the crime, which the prosecutor must prove beyond all reasonable doubt to gain a conviction, include:
- That you provided false information or omitted to provide information to the EDD that you should have updated them on.
- The presence or lack of the relevant data affected whether you received unemployment insurance benefits or how much you were seemingly entitled to.
- You had fraudulent intent, meaning your conduct was done for the purpose of wrongfully extracting funds from the California unemployment insurance system.
Available Defense Strategies
While some might suppose that fighting a charge of UI fraud is nearly impossible, at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we see victories in these kinds of cases all the time.
Some of the defenses we utilize include:
- There was no fraudulent intent. You may have genuinely believed the information you gave the EDD was accurate, mad a simple mistake, or have been unaware of the requirement to report certain types of income to the EDD.
- Lack of Evidence. It may be that the prosecution has proceeded in a sloppy manner, being overloaded with work and feeling rushed. Or, the case against you may simply have been weak to begin with.
- False Accusation. You may have been falsely accused by someone you know or by the EDD "red flag" system. Someone else may have done the fraud, perhaps even in your name.
Contact Us Today
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have the expertise to win your unemployment insurance fraud case. We have a long track record of securing dismissals and acquittals, and when that is not feasible, we know how to negotiate the best possible plea agreement.
For a free legal consultation, do not hesitate to call us anytime 24/7 at 424-333-0943.