Unemployment insurance fraud occurs when an individual presents false identification, gives incorrect details, or intentionally hides facts tailored to increase or acquire the benefits or to refute benefits to a qualified person. California’s unemployment code 2101 criminalizes this act, and you could face severe penalties if found guilty. The penalties vary depending on your previous criminal history, the incident, and the offense's specifics. Long jail terms and hefty fines are usually components of the sentencing. In California State, the Employment Development Dept (EDD) manages unemployment insurance, a combination of federal programs, and the state. The program helps people who lose their jobs get through a challenging period until they get new jobs. If you are charged with unemployment insurance fraud in California, we at Orange County Criminal Lawyer can help you create a convincing defense. We have successfully helped people handle unemployment fraud cases, and we could do the same for you.

Qualification for Unemployment Benefits in California

The Employment Development Dept program in California provides between $40 and $450 every week to people who lose their jobs for a period not exceeding 12 months. You could only receive unemployment insurance benefits if you lose a job without fault, but some exceptional cases are also considered. If you quit or leave your employment or get fired, you can file an application for special or unique consideration by the EDD. Whether you qualify under these circumstances will depend exclusively on EDD and may vary from one case to another. 

However, as is the case with many public insurance programs, the problem is that some individuals often take undue advantage of insurance benefits. This not only drives up costs for employers concerning unemployment insurance but also creates a backlog in the system. It results in delays for those who are lawfully qualified for unemployment insurance services.

Other qualifications needed to get unemployment insurance benefits in California include:

  • You must be actively looking for a new job.
  • You have to be able, willing, and ready to work but are unable to get a job.
  • You can’t file for unemployment benefits if more than 18 months have passed from when you left employment.
  • You have to wait until the actual lay off, even if you know you will soon be laid off. You can’t file for unemployment benefits while still employed or simply because your hours have been reduced.

Forms of Unemployment Insurance Fraud

You can violate California's unemployment insurance fraud laws in various ways. The most common types of violations include:

Employee Violations

Employees may commit fraud in various ways:

  • Fail to diligently look for employment and submit job applications to employers and inform the EDD of their progress
  • Invent a fake employer, saying they were laid off by that employer and then collecting benefits on that basis
  • Use of phony names or other unreliable information to receive unemployment benefits. It's also an identity theft if the personal details of another individual are used.
  • Receive another person’s unemployment insurance check without his or her consent and knowledge
  • Receive benefits from more than one state simultaneously.
  • Tell lies about why they lost their They may allege it was an unavoidable lay off when in the real sense, they quit, or they were sacked or fired.
  • Fail to report other forms of income such as social security benefits, workers comp payments, or pensions to the EDD while receiving unemployment benefits
  • Receive the benefits while working and not reporting that fact to EDD. It's also known as double-dipping.

Employer Violations

Employers may engage in unemployment insurance fraud laws when they:

  • Intentionally fail to make unemployment insurance deductions from employee’s checks, and fail to make corresponding unemployment insurance benefit contributions to the EDD.
  • Tell lies about the hours, wages, or other details about a former staff that would increase their unemployment benefits.
  • Lie regarding why an employee is not working for them anymore, by saying the employee quit, was fired yet it was a layoff.

Investigations on Unemployment Insurance Fraud

In California, unemployment insurance fraud is a hot button and a high profile issue. Given the unreasonable cost it causes California taxpayers, and widespread, the state prosecutes unemployment insurance fraud aggressively. The EDD is the legal agency mandated to conduct investigations on insurance fraud allegations. Through a public fraud reporting phone number or hotline, the EDD receives hot tips regarding potential unemployment insurance fraud instances. 

They also receive hints from their officers in the field, especially if an EDD staff notices a suspicious issue. The EDD allocates a particular investigation unit to the suspected or potential cases of unemployment insurance fraud. The EDD could file fraud charges against the perpetrators if the company finds enough evidence convincing that fraud took place, and there is a likelihood of winning.  If there's not enough evidence, the EDD may work to get further evidence or drop the entire case.

Punishment for Unemployment Insurance Fraud

Under California law, the penalty for fraud involvement depends on the specific crime you charged. Many fraud crimes are called wobblers, meaning they are crimes the court may choose to charge as a felony or a misdemeanor crime depending on your criminal record and facts. The penalties are imposed in connection with the violation of PC 550 and unemployment insurance law code 2101.

General Insurance Fraud PC 550

Violation of PC 550 is a more severe crime, and this statute regulates general cases concerning California’s insurance fraud. The amount or value of fraud determines the sentence if the court charges you of a misdemeanor crime. If the amount of the fraud committed is $ 950 or less, California’s unemployment insurance fraud court may charge you with a misdemeanor crime. You could face a period not exceeding six months in California county jail and a fine of $ 1000 maximum. You may face wobbler charges if the amount is more than $ 950. Your jail time could increase to a one-year maximum and a fine of $ 10,000 maximum if the amount is more than $ 950, and you are charged as a California misdemeanor crime.

On the other hand, if the amount of fraud committed is more than $ 950 in any 12-month consecutive period, the court may charge you with a felony. You could, therefore, face the following penalties:

  • Double the amount of fraud
  • A hefty fine not exceeding $ 50,000
  • 2, 3, or 5-year jail sentence

Unemployment Insurance PC 2101

This is the most common statute dealing with California's unemployment insurance fraud. You may face misdemeanor charges for violating PC 2101, and you risk facing a sentence of up to one year in California county jail and a hefty fine of $ 20,000 maximum. On the other hand, if you are charged for a felony under this statute, you could face 16 months, two, or 3 years in the California state prison and face a fine of $ 20,000 maximum.

Additional Penalties

If you are convicted for unemployment insurance fraud, you could also be subjected to:

  • Repayment of the benefits plus a 30% penalty
  • Ineligibility to get any paid benefits
  • Professional discipline-if, you are charged with criminal acts, your professional licenses are affected, especially if you have committed a moral turpitude offense.

However, depending on the circumstances surrounding your crime, a competent attorney could arrange on your behalf to have you pay restitution to the California EDD. The payment could act as a negotiation with the department not to file criminal charges against you. You may not face criminal charges if the department accepts and you make your payment on time. The EDD may institute criminal proceedings at any time if you fail to make any payment.

Defenses against Unemployment Insurance Fraud Charges

There are legal defenses that a competent attorney can employ to help your fight unemployment fraud charges. The leading common defenses include:

No Fraudulent Intention

If the prosecutor accuses you of unemployment insurance fraud, they must prove that you had a fraudulent intention. The judge may instruct the jury to acquit you of the charges if the prosecutor can't provide the evidence that you had a specific intent to defraud. For you to face unemployment insurance fraud in California, it’s not sufficient to prove that you just filed an inaccurate claim.

The law also demands that your deeds or actions must have been intending to defraud and receive your financial benefits from the unemployment insurance system. Suppose you genuinely believe that you didn’t know that specific types of income needed to be reported. In that case, you were filing a viable claim, or you by mistake put down wrong information, then you shouldn't be held responsible for violating unemployment benefits fraud in California.

Insufficient Evidence

Unemployment insurance claims and fraud in California are on the rise. To curb the vice, the government has responded by speeding up the investigations and prosecuting the perpetrators. Because of pressure to arrest the victims and file the cases, investigators always make quick judgments and conclusions while pursuing the case. Many times, charges of unemployment fraud are initiated based on anonymous tips and red flags when, in reality, the only evidence implicating the defendant is circumstantial.

You may be an employer convicted of withholding or denying deductions from your employees knowingly and willfully failing to submit them to EDD. If you don't manage payroll issues or the books, you may not have realized that the person who does it has violated PC 503 embezzlement law by withholding the deductions. If the prosecutor fails to provide enough evidence to tie you to the offense, you could be acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence.

Mistaken Identity or False Accusations

Showing your innocence against unemployment insurance fraud charges is the ultimate defense. Innocent people get accused of this offense because of numerous reasons. Your colleague in the office may fraudulently file a claim, and when asked, he or she denies responsibility and accuses you. You could be a victim of mistaken identity or identity theft, yet you didn’t submit the false claim. A competent defense investigator and defense attorney can reveal the critical facts and get you acquitted if accused falsely.

Plea Bargaining

Your attorney may try to negotiate a plea bargain if all else fails and prove against you is too apparent to refute. When you can't deny criminal responsibility, plea bargains are useful tools, and when there are too many cases in the system or mitigating factors or the state's evidence is weak. A plea bargain gives the court mandate to charge you and plead nolo contendere or plead guilty to a reduced sentence or a reduced charge. This will be in exchange for dismissing more severe charges of unemployment insurance fraud.

Related Offenses

Since unemployment insurance fraud in California involves perjury, forgery, and theft, the court may file additional charges in place of unemployment insurance fraud. These charges include:

California’s Perjury Law PC 118

California’s PC 118 is the statute that defines the offense and act of perjury. According to this statute, perjury is the deliberate giving of false testimony while under oath. You may violate PC 118 when you do the following:

  • Give incorrect information on a material matter in a signed affidavit
  • Giving incorrect information about a car accident in a deposition for a personal injury case

Lying about the identification of a suspect when testifying in a California criminal trial

If the prosecutor accuses you of perjury, he or she must prove that:

  • You intended to testify falsely when you made your false statement
  • You were aware of making the statement while under oath
  • The information was material
  • You willfully stated that the information was accurate when in reality you knew it was false
  • You took an oath to testify under penalty of perjury

You may be subjected to a punishment of perjury laws to give them information in situations such as:

  • In signed affidavit
  • In a DL 44 driver’s license application at the DMV
  • In signed certificate
  • In signed declaration
  • When being deposed
  • When testifying in court

It’s a felony under California law if you are found guilty of perjury. You could face four years in a state prison or a fine of $ 10,000 maximum. A conviction under this statute may hurt your gun rights. Under California law, you are not allowed to possess a gun if convicted of a felony.

California’s Conspiracy Law PC 182

California’s PC 182 criminal conspiracy is where a person agrees with more than one other party to commit an offense. One of the members commits the crime to further that agreement. People may carry out criminal conspiracy through the following ways:

  • Agreeing to rob a bank and one of the parties buys ski masks to hide every party’s identification
  • Consenting to burglarize a home and one of the parties calls the house to find out if the owners are home
  • Agreeing to set another person’s vehicle on fire and one of the parties buys gasoline to start the fire

If the prosecutor accuses you of conspiracy, he or she must prove that:

  • At least one of the overt acts was committed in California
  • You agreed with someone else to commit an offense

One of the person’s to the conspiracy took an overt act to advance or further the conspiracy

However, you may not be guilty of conspiracy under California law if:

  • You don’t intend to commit a crime
  • You merely associate or accompanies with a member of a conspiracy

It’s important to note that an individual accused of a plot doesn't personally need to know all the other individuals' roles or identities in the scheme. What matters is if you did agree to commit the offense. If you are guilty of violating PC 182, it's a felony, and you could face a penalty depending on what a felony carries. If you are charged with rape conspiracy, you could face a sentence of up to eight years in prison. You could face severe punishments if you are charged with conspiring to commit more than one felony.

California’s Forgery Law PC 470

The crime of forgery in California is clearly defined under PC 470 of the state’s law. You may face the charges under this statute if you fraudulently alter certain documents or falsify a signature. It’s an offense under PC 470 if you do the following:

  • Falsely alter, counterfeit, make or forge certain documents like money orders, bonds, and checks
  • Falsify, corrupt, or change any record of any legal will, judgment, or codicil
  • Forge or counterfeit the handwriting or the seal of another person
  • Sign the name of a fictitious person or another person

If the prosecutor accuses you of forgery, he or she must prove that:

  • You committed forgery
  • When doing forgery, you acted intending to defraud another person

It's a wobbler crime if you are found guilty of violating PC 470. A wobbler is an offense that the court can charge as a felony or a misdemeanor crime. If you are accused of a felony, you could face a fine of $ 10,000 maximum, felony probation, or a jail sentence of up to three years in county jail. If you are charged with a misdemeanor crime, you could face a fine of $ 10,000 maximum, misdemeanor probation, or a jail sentence of up to one year in county jail. If the forged document is a money order, check, or instrument worth $ 950 or less, you could only be charged for a misdemeanor crime.

You could also face negative immigration consequences if you are convicted of forgery. Forgery is a crime of moral turpitude, and you could be marked as inadmissible or deported from the U.S if you are a non-citizen. You could also lose your right to possess or own a gun since it's illegal under California law to own a firearm if you are convicted of a felony.

Counterfeiting, Forging or Possessing a Fraudulent Public Seal PC 472

It’s an offense under PC 472 to forge a public seal in California. It means counterfeiting or forging an emblem or a design, especially a California state seal on a state identification card or a driver’s license. If the prosecutor accuses you of violating PC 472, he or she must prove that:

  • You acted with the specific intent to defraud another person
  • You were aware that the impression or seal was a counterfeit and willfully concealed that fact.
  • You possessed a counterfeit public seal.

Possessing a fraudulent, counterfeiting, or forging a public seal is a wobbler under California law. You could be charged with misdemeanor or felony if you are found guilty of violating this statute. The charges may depend on your criminal history or the facts of your case. You could face a fine of $ 10,000 maximum or face a sentence of 16 months, two, or three years in state prison if you are charged with a felony. You could also face a fine of $ 1000 maximum and a sentence of up to one year in county jail if you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime.

California’s Grand Theft Law PC 487

California's PC 487 defines a grand theft offense as unlawful, taking another person's property amounting to $ 950. It's a wobbler crime if you are found guilty of violating PC 487 in California. You may face felony or misdemeanor charges under this statute. It's up to the prosecutor's discretion to charge you of felony grand theft or misdemeanor grand theft. The prosecutor may base his or her decision on your criminal history and the circumstances of your case. You may face up to one year in county jail if you are charged with misdemeanor grand theft. You could also face 16 months, two, or three years in county jail, or felony probation with a sentence of up to one year in county jail if you are charged with felony grand theft.

Find a Defense Attorney Near Me

If you face the charges of unemployment insurance fraud in California, you should not take any chances but seek the best legal representation. Securing the services of a competent defense attorney ensures a favorable outcome. At Orange County Criminal Lawyer, we are ready to help you create the best defense against unemployment insurance fraud charges. Contact us today at 714-262-4833 and speak to one of our attorneys.