Some people think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the government and receive unemployment benefits when they still are working. However, trying to get unemployment insurance benefits when you are not actually unemployed is a serious crime in New Jersey.
Falsely obtaining unemployment benefits is a fraud crime in New Jersey and can lead to serious penalties include prison time and a hefty fine.
What is Falsely Obtaining Unemployment Insurance Benefits While Working?
Obtaining unemployment benefits while working is punishable under NJSA 2C:21-4:6. The statute reads:
“A person is guilty of the crime of insurance fraud if that person knowingly makes, or causes to be made, a false, fictitious, fraudulent, or misleading statement of material fact in, or omits a material fact from, or causes a material fact to be omitted from, any record, bill, claim or other document, in writing, electronically, orally or in any other form, that a person attempts to submit, submits, causes to be submitted, or attempts to cause to be submitted as part of, in support of or opposition to or in connection with: (1) a claim for payment, reimbursement or other benefit pursuant to an insurance policy, or from an insurance company or the “Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund Law,” P.L.1952, c.174 (C.39:6-61 et seq.); (2) an application to obtain or renew an insurance policy; (3) any payment made or to be made in accordance with the terms of an insurance policy or premium finance transaction; or (4) an affidavit, certification, record or other document used in any insurance or premium finance transaction.”
In the case of one who tries to receive benefits while working, the offender “causes a material fact to be omitted.” Obviously, this omitted fact is the he or she is employed.
However, it is worth noting that not every person who is charged with this is willfully gaming the system.
Sometimes, an individual will legally be entitled to unemployment benefits in New Jersey, but months later begin working. This person forgets to tell New Jersey that he or she found work and receives a check in the mail thinking that—despite finding work—he or she is somehow still entitled to benefits. Thus, without thinking much about it, he or she continues to deposit these checks even though he or she is employed.
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In such a case, the law will presume that you knew or should have known that being employed bars your ability to continue to collect unemployment benefits and expects you to inform the State of New Jersey of your new employment.
Ultimately, cashing that check and not informing New Jersey is treated as an “omission” of a relevant fact and will be grounds for being charged with violating NJSA 2C:21-4:6.
Penalties and Fines
Violating NJSA 2C:21-4:6 can be a second or third degree crime depending on your unique circumstances.
It will be a second degree crime if you knowingly commit 5 or more acts of insurance fraud and the aggregate value of the benefits you received are at least $1,000.
All other types of insurance fraud are third degree crimes.
Most importantly, each act of insurance fraud shall constitute an additional, separate and distinct offense. This means cashing five unemployment benefit checks while you are actually working is considered 5 separate fraud crimes! Consequently, if you cashed 5 checks each for at least $200, you can face charges for second degree insurance fraud.
Remember, a second degree crime has a mandatory prison sentence of at least 5 years, but you can be put away for as long as 10 years. Additionally, you can be forced to pay a fine of up to $150,000.
A third degree crime has a mandatory prison term of at least 3 years, but you can be forced to serve up to 5 years. You could also face a fine of up to $15,000.
Who Should I Contact?
If you were charged with falsely obtaining insurance benefits while working, contact Rosenblum Law today. You could be facing more than you think. Our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys will do all they can to protect your legal rights, fight to keep you out of prison, and will diligently work to get you the results you want. Call us today at 888-883-5529.