Unemployment insurance fraud is a serious crime in Pennsylvania. Fraud comes in a variety of forms, the most common being overpayment. The state of Pennsylvania estimates that it loses more than $227 million a year in overpayments.
It is a crime to knowingly make a misstatement on an application for unemployment benefits. If you have been paid too much in unemployment insurance over time, you may be forced to pay it all back. If you cannot do so, you may face a lien against your home or the garnishment of your wages. In the most egregious instances, the state may decide to charge you with the crime of unemployment insurance fraud. If convicted, you may have to pay $200 for each obtained check and 30 days in jail.
How Fraud Investigations Work
Deceit is at the heart of fraud. It is hard measure something that is purposefully concealed from view. The state agency that manages the benefits program reviews a sample of randomly selected unemployment fraud claims. State resources are limited, and thus state officials can only take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of insurance statements.
Fraud and Non-Fraud Cases
There are 3 types of fraud. The first is under-reporting the amount of money received. The second consists of intentionally misreported reasons why the person has become unemployed. And the third consists of claimants who fail to report extra income.
However, not all overpayments amount to fraud. It is possible that the state agency made an error in calculating benefits. This happens all the time. There are also cases when employers and employees disagree over why someone had to leave employment, and this can also lead to miscalculation.
Why You Need an Attorney
If you have been charged with unemployment insurance fraud, the first person you should call is an attorney who specialises in this field. You want to consult with your attorney before you respond to the charge. During your initial consultation, your lawyer will ask you to recall the steps you took to apply for the insurance. They will also review all the documents you have received from the state agency that manages such claims.
Unemployment insurance claim forms are not the easiest to understand. It is quite easy to get confused by the questions and to inadvertently give the wrong information. If this is what happened, then your attorney can liaise with the state to clear up the matter.
It is also possible that the error lies with the state rather than any malfeasance on your part. Bureaucratic mistakes do not constitute fraud and can be easily cleared up by your lawyer. The latter understands how the unemployment insurance system works. They also speak the jargon of the officials who manage it. This will give them insight into who they correspond with and what they should say.
If You Are Prosecuted
If the state decides to prosecute the case against you, then you will need to defend yourself. Your attorney will have the expertise and experience to help you beat back the charges.
To prove its case, the state must gather enough evidence to demonstrate that you intentionally misled officials. Your attorney will get to look at the same evidence and documentation as prosecutors. They will use the available facts to build your defense. They will also depose the individuals who processed your application. They will scrutinize the steps taken by the persons who reviewed your application and calculated the amount of money you were entitled to receive. Your attorney will also look at the system of how applications are processed to determine whether it contains flaws or shortcomings that may lead to error and misunderstanding. In short, your lawyer will do all that they can to show that you are innocent of fraud.