Today’s Fraud of the Day describes the case of an Alton, Illinois man, who was sentenced to five years of probation for defrauding the unemployment insurance program. (He got off easy if you ask me.) Unemployment insurance fraud happens when someone makes a false statement, or withholds or misrepresents information for the purpose of receiving or increasing their unemployment insurance benefits. If convicted, the penalty could be up to 10 years in federal prison plus a fine of $250,000.
Between February 2009 and January 2010, the Illinois man filed for and received unemployment insurance benefits, while confirming every two weeks with the Illinois Department of Employment Security that he was 1) not employed, 2) willing and able to work, and 3) actively seeking employment. In fact, he was most definitely working – and getting paid for it – at the same time he was collecting unemployment insurance benefits. (This qualifies as “lying” as mentioned in the fraud definition above.)
Unemployment insurance is intended to help people who have lost their job unexpectedly to provide for life’s basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, water, housing, utilities, etc.). The monetary benefit is not meant to be a supplement to earnings received from another job. (A few fraudsters can really spoil it for the folks who really deserve the benefit.)
Luckily, this man was prevented from collecting more money from the unemployment insurance system. He pleaded guilty to embezzlement of public funds and was ordered to repay more than $17,000 in restitution plus a $100 special assessment to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. (Wonder how the outcome of this trial will affect his job prospects in the future?)