Fraud is a broad term used to describe the crime of intentionally decieving another person or group with the intention of taking money or other valued items from them. There are many types of fraud: insurance fraud, identity fraud, consumer fraud, and computer fraud. Of these categories, some can be further divided into sub-categories. Unemployment benefit fraud is a sub-category of insurance fraud.
Unemployment benefits are one of the social safety nets that protect Americans by providing temporary income to workers who are between jobs. These benefits are funded by the state and federal government through taxpayer dollars.These benefits can make a huge difference in a temporarily unemployed worker’s life. Sometimes, temporary unemployment relief can be the difference between becoming homeless and staying in one’s home. Stealing unemployment benefits is a serious crime and it hurts all New Jerseyans, not just the state agency that distributes the benefits. Every person who works and pays taxes in New Jersey is part of the program, both by funding it and being entitled to it if he or she happens to lose his or her job.
In New Jersey, unemployment benefits last for 26 weeks. The amount of money a person recieves is based on his or her income prior to losing his or her job. The average recipient revcieves about $400 per week for the 26 weeks. The maximum amount of money an unemployed New Jersey worker can receive is $611 per week. Not all people qualify for unemployment benefits – if a worker’s previous salary was below a certain amount, he or she is not entitled to receive unemployment benefits from the state.
Unfortunately, not everybody plays by the rules when it comes to unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are considered to be a form of insurance, and stealing money meant to go to unemployed workers is a type of insurance fraud. Unemployment benefit fraud is one of the many types of fraud that are recognized by N.J.S.A. 17:33A.
It is illegal to collect unemployment benefits while you are employed. This includes working “off the books” for cash. Any person who is found to be collecting unemployment benefits while also receiving regular paychecks in exchange for tangible work is subject to fraud charges. The degree of the charge that the defendant faces is determined by the amount of money he or she stole through fraudulently claiming to be unemployed.
The theft of $200 or more in unemployment benefits is a fourth degree crime. Fourth degree crimes are punishable by up to eighteen months in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
Stealing any amount of unemployment benefits worth between $500 and $75,000 is a third degree crime. Third degree crimes are punishable by three to five years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000.
If the unemployment benefits stolen are worth $75,000 or more, the defendant faces second degree fraud charges. Second degree crimes are punishable by five to ten years in jail and fines of up to $150,000.
Fraud crimes are similar to theft crimes in that they involve stealing from a victim for one’s personal, usually financial, gain. The difference between fraud and theft crimes is that fraud crimes involve the element of deception. An example of a theft is when a $100 is taken from the victim’s wallet. A fraud example is when the victim unwittingly gives $100 to a criminal because he or she has been led to believe the offender needed or deserved it.
If you have been accused of unemployment benefits fraud and need to prove your innocence, call Ron Bar-Nadav today at 201-525-1555 to discuss your legal options. The key to successfully building a case and fighting charges is proactivity. Be on top of your case and make sure you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t wait – call Ron Bar-Nadav today for knowledgeable, experienced criminal defense.