False Statements to Obtain Unemployment Benefits

What happens if you are accused of making false statements to obtain unemployment compensation benefits in Florida? Each year, Florida recovers millions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment compensation overpayments.

Instances of unemployment fraud (and reemployment assistance fraud) have increased dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis. One reason for the increase in fraud relates to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020.

The CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits to people affected by COVID-19 by increasing the dollar amount of unemployment benefit payments and expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits.

In Florida, unemployment compensation benefits are sometimes called “reemployment assistance.” The most common examples of fraud in applying for or collecting unemployment benefits include:

  • returning to work continues to collect unemployment compensation benefits;
  • working a part-time job but not reporting the earnings to the state (thereby collecting more benefits than allowed);
  • performing temporary work while collecting unemployment benefits but not reporting the earnings when filing the weekly claim;
  • holding back information or giving false information to the Florida Unemployment insurance agency;
  • using someone else’s information to collect benefits as a form of identity theft.

Suppose the unemployment compensation fraud case is referred to the state attorney’s office. In that case, an assistant state attorney might decide to file a direct file information against you alleging that you violated Florida Statute Section 443.071(1) by making a false statement to obtain unemployment or reemployment assistance benefits.

Venue is typically proper in the Florida county where you made the false statements or collected the unemployment compensation.

Crimes related to obtaining unemployment benefits by fraud are classified as a third degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison.

Attorney for Unemployment Benefits Fraud in Tampa, FL

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients accused of violating Section 443.071(1), F.S., after making a false statement to obtain unemployment or reemployment assistance benefits for cases throughout Florida.

Our main office is in downtown Tampa, FL. We have a second office in New Port Richey across from the West Pasco Judicial Center courthouse on Little Road.

We fight unemployment fraud cases throughout the felony courtrooms in all surrounding areas, including Brooksville in Hernando County, Dade City in Pasco County, Clearwater in Pinellas County, Bradenton in Manatee County, and Bartow in Polk County, FL.

During the free and confidential consultation, we can explain the charges pending against you, the maximum and minimum penalties associated with that charge, the typical penalties imposed, and ways to avoid those penalties by fighting for a much better result.

Prosecutions for unemployment benefits fraud have become more common during the COVID-19 crisis. We understand how these fraud cases are investigated and prosecuted in Florida.

Let us put our experience to work for you. Call 813-250-0500.

Increased in Unemployment Insurance Fraud in Florida

The most serious accusations involve using someone else’s name and information to apply for unemployment benefits (sometimes called “reemployement assistance fraud”). Using someone else’s name and information might result in additional charges for identity theft.

If the loss exceeds $10,000, then the penalty for this crime is classified as an aggravated felony that might subject a non-United States citizen to deportation.

The term “unemployment fraud” is defined in Florida Statute Section 443.071 as knowingly making a “false statement or representation” or knowingly failing to “disclose a material fact to obtain or increase any benefits or other payment.”

In federal court, crimes are prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1001, for fraud when a person knowingly and willfully:

  • conceals, falsifies, covers up by any device, scheme, or trick a material fact;
  • makes any materially fraudulent, fictitious, false statement or representation; or
  • uses any false writing or document knowing the same to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.

A conviction for a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 is punishable by up to five years in federal prison. Related charges include identity theft, aggravated identity theft, mail fraud, wire fraud, or CARES Act unemployment fraud.

Defenses include not knowing that the statement was false or that a material fact was not disclosed.

Procedures After an Accusation of Unemployment Compensation Fraud

After the direct information is filed, the court will review the accusation and decide whether probable cause exists to support the allegation. If so, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest, listed on the docket as “capias to the sheriff.”

If you are arrested on the warrant, you will receive notice that the case is set for arraignment before a particular judge. If you retain a criminal defense attorney, the attorney will represent you at the arraignment and release you from appearing.

You must appear in person if you have not retained a private attorney by the arraignment date. At the arraignment, the judge will inform you of the charge pending against you, ask whether you can afford to hire a private attorney, intend to represent yourself, or wish to have the public defender appointed (if you qualify as “indigent”).

An attorney can help you obtain a copy of your charging document (the information) and any discovery in the prosecutor’s file that describes the allegations. Discovery in these cases includes the documents you signed when applying for unemployment benefits, police reports, and witness statements.

The goal in these cases is getting the charges dropped or dismissed, sometimes after restitution is paid. You want to avoid a felony conviction.

You also want to avoid being supervised by the Department of Corrections for pre-trial intervention or while on probation since it will delay the case being resolved and comes with extra expenses such as the cost of supervision, cost of prosecution, costs of investigation, fines, and court costs, in addition to restitution.

In many cases, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to resolve the case. If the prosecutor can’t prove the allegation at trial beyond all reasonable doubt, then the best result is getting the charges dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the court.

At least for charges of making a false statement to obtain unemployment benefits in Pasco County, FL, the offense is listed in attachment “A” as a third degree felony eligible for release on recognizance (ROR) in the uniform bond schedule.

Reemployment Assistance Fraud in Florida

Reemployment Assistance fraud is defined as making a false statements or failing to disclose a material fact, knowingly made for the purpose of obtaining or preventing payment of benefits. The crime is classified as a third degree felony. The most common examples of Reemployment Assistance fraud include:

  • Misrepresented the reason for the job separation;
  • Intentionally under-reporting earnings; and
  • Intentionally not reporting any earned wages.

If a fraud determination is issued, you will be required to repay the amount of the overpayment along with a 15% penalty. You will also be disqualified from receiving future benefits. The disqualification may be imposed on a week-by-week basis up to a one-year period.

If you do not pay, the case may be referred to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution, which can result in a grand theft charge or a misdemeanor charge.

We are familiar with the tactics used by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) when investigating crimes for Reemployment Assistance fraud and abuse.

Additional Resources

Consequences of Unemployment Insurance Fraud – Visit the Department of Employment Services website to learn more about the consequences of unemployment insurance fraud. Find examples of unemployment insurance fraud. Find out what to do if you think you may have committed UI fraud and frequently asked questions about the overpayment penalty.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.