Both workers and employers can be accused of committing unemployment insurance fraud. Workers are accused when they have supposedly collected benefits they aren’t entitled to, or falsifying their claims. Employers can be accused if they are suspected of tampering with deductions or providing false information about claims.
Either way, unemployment fraud can be charged as a felony and may carry jail time, years of prison, or a fine of up to $20,000 or more. If you have been charged, you need to speak with an unemployment insurance fraud lawyer in Los Angeles. The Simmrin Law Group knows how to help.
What Is Unemployment Insurance Fraud?
Unemployment insurance, or “unemployment,” is a government program that is meant to help anyone who becomes unemployed through no fault of their own. It’s designed to give them a small, temporary paycheck while they look for work.
But unemployment insurance creates opportunities for fraud on both the side of the worker and the side of the employer:
- Workers can receive up to $450 a week, in some cases for more than a year. This money is paid in part by the former employer.
- Unemployment benefits can be denied under some circumstances where the employee quit or was fired, and employers can challenge an employee’s claim.
If either party falsified information, either to obtain benefits or to get them denied, they can be accused of unemployment fraud. Because it is considered a financially motivated crime, unemployment insurance fraud is a “white-collar crime.”
A fraud charge is serious. So, if you’ve been accused, you should have a skilled L.A. criminal defense lawyer by your side to guide you through your case.
For a free legal consultation with a Criminal Defense lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 928-9347
Who Investigates Unemployment Insurance Fraud in Los Angeles?
In most cases, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) investigates occurrences of unemployment insurance fraud in Los Angeles. They usually act on tips from the public through their public fraud report hotline or from local field offices.
Once tipped off, an investigator or investigation unit will contact potential employers, consult records, and even go through evidence like security footage to see if you are guilty of unemployment insurance fraud.
If the EDD investigator thinks they find enough evidence to prove that you are guilty of unemployment insurance fraud, they will file charges.
In that event, an unemployment insurance fraud defense attorney in Los Angeles can help you with your case. We can do our own investigations, and we may be able to find evidence to refute their claims or reduce your charge.
Los Angeles Unemployment Insurance Fraud Lawyer Near Me (310) 928-9347
Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Los Angeles?
According to the California EDD, the eligibility requirements you need to meet for unemployment benefits in Los Angeles are:
- Total or partial unemployment
- Unemployment through no fault of your own
- Physical ability to work
- Availability for work
- Readiness and willingness to accept work
- Enough wages earned during your base period
If you’re collecting unemployment and you do not meet all these criteria, you may be guilty of unemployment insurance fraud. If you believe that you’ve met these requirements and are still being accused of fraud, a criminal defense attorney can help you protect yourself from a wrongful charge.
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When Are Workers Charged With Unemployment Fraud in Los Angeles?
When a worker is charged, it usually means they are suspected of making false claims to get benefits they aren’t legally entitled to. This can include:
- Continuing to collect unemployment while working (full-time or part-time)
- Failing to report wages
- Failing to report that you are collecting funds from a pension, retirement plan, or workers comp
- Using a false Social Security Number or false identity to collect unemployment
- Collecting unemployment from another state (that you don’t live in)
- Taking someone else’s unemployment benefits
- Creating a false employer in order to collect benefits as a worker
- Claiming you are seeking employment when really you are not
- Giving false or misleading information in order to qualify for unemployment
The EDD may try to pin you with a charge that is needlessly severe. An unemployment insurance fraud lawyer in Los Angeles can defend you from your charges and get your sentence reduced or dismissed.
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When Are Employers Charged With Unemployment Fraud in Los Angeles?
When an employer is charged, it’s usually because they are suspected of tampering with the unemployment system either to profit in some way or to retaliate against a former employee. This can include:
- Withholding deductions and keeping them instead of paying them into the unemployment program, or
- Knowingly providing false information regarding an unemployment claim, such as why the employee was terminated or what their wages were.
Litigious former employees may try to accuse you of fraud that you’re not guilty of. Our criminal defense attorneys can make sure you aren’t taken advantage of.
What Are the Penalties for Unemployment Insurance Fraud in Los Angeles?
It depends on how you’re charged. In most cases, you will be charged under a law known as Unemployment Insurance Code (UIC) Section 2101, which is specifically for unemployment fraud. In some cases, however, the prosecutor will choose to charge you under California’s general fraud law, Penal Code (PC) 550.
If you’re charged under UIC 2101, it may be a misdemeanor or a felony. Both carry serious penalties:
- Misdemeanor penalties:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $20,000
- Informal (unsupervised) probation
- Felony penalties:
- Either 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison
- A fine of up to $20,000
- Formal (supervised) probation
If you are instead charged under PC 550, which is less common, the penalty depends on how much money was defrauded. If the total is $950 or less, it’s always a misdemeanor, and you face 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines. If the total is more than $950, it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The misdemeanor penalties are somewhat milder than those of UIC 2101, with a $10,000 fine. The felony penalties are much more severe, with up to $50,000 in fines or twice the amount of the fraud, whichever is more.
No matter which law you are charged with, if convicted, you will also have to repay the defrauded money to the government with a 30% penalty, and you will not be eligible for any unemployment benefits in the future. A criminal defense lawyer from Simmrin Law Group may be able to help you reduce your sentence and get lighter penalties.
How Does a Lawyer Fight an Unemployment Fraud Charge?
In some cases, you may not have to fight the legal charges at all. A good lawyer may be able to negotiate with the state EDD. You may be able to simply repay the disputed amount to EDD and they will drop the charges.
In other cases, it’s better to fight the charge. Two of the strongest defenses for unemployment insurance fraud include:
- No fraudulent intent: Making a mistake or misunderstanding unemployment is not fraud. Depending on the circumstances, this can be a powerful defense.
- Lack of evidence: The prosecutor has to have proof that you intended to defraud the unemployment insurance system. If their evidence is weak, the case may be dismissed or you could potentially win in court.
The right defense for your case will depend on whether you are a worker or an employer. It will also depend on what happened and what the evidence is against you. The best way to build your defense is to talk to an unemployment insurance fraud lawyer in L.A.
Talk to a Los Angeles Unemployment Insurance Fraud Lawyer for Free
One fraud charge can ruin a life, a career, or a business. Fines, probation, and possible jail time can cost valuable time and money, and your charge could follow you for the rest of your life. Don’t let that happen to you.
We are no stranger to the complicated rules of unemployment insurance, and we understand how these cases are fought and won. We will challenge the evidence against you, build your defense, and help you get the best outcome possible.
Let our experienced Los Angeles unemployment insurance fraud lawyers at Simmrin Law Group give you a FREE consultation and get you started on your case. Fill out the form to the right or call us and get your free consultation today.