CONCORD - The state Attorney Generals Office sent out a strong message today directed at those who might be engaging in or contemplating engaging in any form of unemployment compensation fraud in connection with the state's Department of Employment Security.
Residents are urged to be aware the various kinds of fraud that the Employment Security Department detects, investigates, and prosecutes and the accompanying penalties if one is convicted of unemployment compensation fraud.
The Department of Employment Security provides unemployment compensation benefits to eligible claimants who are unemployed through no fault of their own. As a result of the COVID-19 State of Emergency, the number of claims for unemployment compensation benefits increased dramatically.
The New Hampshire Department of Justice has an embedded prosecutor dedicated to unemployment compensation fraud, and the Office has a long record of success in holding offenders accountable.
Earnings-related fraud, or unemployment compensation fraud, occurs when a claimant willfully makes a false statement or representation or knowingly fails to disclose a material fact for the purpose of obtaining or increasing the benefits or payments they receive, and to which they are not entitled. New Hampshire law provides the following possible consequences:
· Unemployment compensation fraud resulting in additional benefits of $1,000 or more is a class A felony, with a potential penalty of 7½ to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $4,000, and payment of restitution equal to the amount of total benefits received by the individual, not just the amount of additional benefits received.
· Unemployment compensation fraud resulting in additional benefits of more than $500 but less than $1,000 is a class B felony, with a potential penalty of 3½ to 7 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $4,000, and payment of restitution equal to the amount of total benefits received by the individual, not just the amount of additional benefits received.
· Unemployment compensation fraud resulting in additional benefits of less than $500 is a class A misdemeanor, with a potential penalty of 12 months in the house of corrections and/or a fine of up to $2,000, and payment of restitution equal to the amount of total benefits received by the individual, not just the amount of additional benefits received.
In addition to the penalties described above, any individual convicted of unemployment compensation fraud is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits for one year from conviction.
Employer-assisted fraud occurs when, with the purpose that an employee commit the crime of unemployment compensation fraud, an employer commands, solicits or requests such employee to file for unemployment compensation benefits while still working for the employer and not reporting such work in the employee's claim.
This conduct could constitute criminal solicitation in violation of RSA 629:2. The penalties for any individual convicted of criminal solicitation in this circumstance are the same as the crime that was solicited. For example, if the employee's false statement regarding hours worked for the employer would result in additional benefits of $1,000 or more, the employer could be prosecuted for criminal solicitation as a class A felony with a potential penalty of 7½ to 15 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
These laws are intended to protect the integrity of New Hampshire's unemployment compensation trust fund. That fund has served as a vital means to provide financial relief to thousands of New Hampshire workers during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. As the restrictions in effect due to the outbreak of COVID-19 are eased, those returning to full-time employment are not entitled to benefits. For those continuing with or returning to part-time employment, individuals need to be mindful of always answering the questions presented on their weekly unemployment claim truthfully. The best way to comply with the law and avoid potentially serious consequences is to report work and all earnings truthfully and accurately.