February 21, 2024
A 36-year-old Fruita woman was recently accused of collecting almost $10,000 in unemployment benefits while she was, in fact, employed.
The investigation began in 2017, when a random audit of one of the suspect’s employers revealed that she had been employed while collecting unemployment benefits. She is now facing multiple felony-level charges of fraud, theft, and computer crimes.
The process of filing for unemployment and receiving benefits is complex – meaning that it is common for people to intentionally exploit the system to receive fraudulent benefits, but also that many people make mistakes in the application process and could unintentionally receive benefits that they are not qualified to receive.
Below, we’re going to take a look into what it means to be charged with unemployment fraud and related crimes in Colorado, and what to do if you are facing charges or an investigation.
What Constitutes Colorado Unemployment Fraud?
Unemployment fraud consists of making a false statement, filing a fraudulent claim for unemployment, or withholding/misrepresenting information in order to receive unemployment benefits that you would not otherwise receive.
Common forms of unemployment fraud include:
- Underreporting or misrepresenting hours and income
- Not reporting employment or other types of compensation (e.g. driving for a rideshare app)
- Receiving benefits from multiple states
- Cashing the unemployment check of another without authorization
- Lying about looking for a job
- Lying about the reason for termination from your prior job
- Not reporting a refusal to work
In most cases, unemployment fraud violates Colorado’s statutes against larceny or theft. Under these statutes, knowingly obtaining anything of value without authorization or through deception constitutes theft.
Crimes Related to Unemployment Fraud in Colorado
Any fraudulent tactics used to commit unemployment fraud are likely to be charged as separate offenses. Crimes commonly related to unemployment fraud include:
- Identity theft: Defendants sometimes use another person’s personal or financial identifying information to apply for unemployment benefits, which is a form of fraud known as identity theft. This is a Class 4 felony in Colorado, punishable by 2-6 years in prison and/or fines of up to $500,000.
- Computer crimes: Using a computer to execute any scheme to defraud is considered a computer crime. This includes using a computer to apply for fraudulent unemployment benefits. The criminal penalties for computer crime depend on the value of the theft committed.
Penalties for Colorado Unemployment Fraud
The criminal penalties for unemployment fraud will depend on the extent of the fraud and value of the fraudulent unemployment benefits.
Generally, you can expect the following charges and penalties if you are charged:
- $50-$299: Class 3 Misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $50-$750 fine.
- $300-$749: Class 2 Misdemeanor punishable by 3-12 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
- $750-$1,999: Class 1 Misdemeanor punishable by 6-18 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
- $2,000-$4,999: Class 6 Felony punishable by 12-18 months in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
- $5,000-$19,999: Class 5 Felony punishable by 1-3 years in prison and a fine up to $100,000.
- $20,000-$99,999: Class 4 Felony punishable by 2-6 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.
- $100,000-$999,999: Class 3 Felony punishable by 4-12 years in prison and a fine up to $750,000.
- $1 million or more: Class 2 Felony punishable by 8-24 years in prison and a fine up to $1 million.
In addition to the criminal charges, you will receive a mandatory penalty of the total amount of overpayment plus 65% of the value.
Investigation for Colorado Unemployment Fraud
Colorado’s Division of Unemployment insurance conducts random audits of employers, as described with the suspect above. If these audits reveal that you are receiving false or overpaid unemployment benefits, the department may initiate an investigation. Unemployment fraud can also be reported anonymously online.
If your claim has been selected for review, you may be contacted, or receive a Notice of Decision that reduces or denies your unemployment benefits. If you receive a decision notice, you are permitted to file a written appeal.
Facing Unemployment Fraud Charges in Colorado?
If you have been accused of unemployment fraud or are currently being investigated by the Division of Unemployment Insurance, contact a Colorado fraud attorney right away.
An experienced lawyer can help advise you of how best to proceed in the early stages of your case. Being proactive early in the process could save you a significant amount of heartache – and potentially a criminal conviction – down the road.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.