Last time, we mentioned a bill that aims to impose stricter penalties on those convicted of unemployment benefit fraud. As we noted last time, unemployment benefits fraud is characterized by knowingly making false statements or failing to disclose material facts to authorities in order to obtain or prevent payment of benefits in violation of Reemployment Assistance law. Both employers and employees can be targeted for this crime.
In terms of penalties, unemployment benefits fraud is a third degree felony which can result not only in incarceration but also repayment of overpayment with a 15 percent fine on the overpayment. As we noted last time, another penalty is disqualification from receive future benefits. If the case is referred by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to authorities for prosecution, additional penalties may result.
In unemployment fraud cases against employers, the Florida Department of Revenue will investigate any issues related to tax filings, including instances where an employer is suspected of making false statements in order to avoid or reduce payment of benefits and willful submission of fraudulent reports to enable benefits. Both of these offenses are third degree felonies.
The question of intent is important in unemployment benefits fraud cases against both claimants and employers, as with any fraud charges. In order for prosecutors to obtain a conviction, they must be able to establish fraudulent intent beyond a reasonable doubt. When direct evidence of intent is not available, prosecutors may rely on circumstantial evidence to prove fraudulent intent, and this is not always a straightforward matter, as we’ve mentioned in previous posts. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure a defendant builds the strongest possible case.
Florida Department of Revenue, “Penalty and Interest Provisions for Taxes Administered by the Florida Department of Revenue, Jan. 2016.
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, “Reemployment Assistance Fraud,” Accessed Feb. 18, 2016.