January 12, 2016
For Immediate Release: January 12, 2016 Media Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, (207) 621-5009; cell: (207) 557-1483
AUGUSTA—Residents of Brewer, Lincoln, Baileyville, Harmony, Marshfield, Perry and Bar Harbor have each been convicted on separate charges of fraudulently collecting unemployment insurance. Unemployment benefit fraud involving principal amounts of $1,000 or more is a felony under Maine law.
“Although some say that fraud in our benefit systems is ‘anecdotal,’ my administration knows that this crime diverts resources from the people who need them,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The Department of Labor has consistently worked over the past five years to improve the conviction rate of people committing unemployment fraud, and these results show that they have been effective in preserving the benefits for people who are trying to get back to work. Ignoring fraud burdens Maine businesses by forcing them to pay higher unemployment taxes to fund the fraudulent benefits.”
Michael Love of Brewer plead guilty on Nov. 3, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. Love, 38, has paid $7,000 in restitution, with a balance of $3,813.
William Enochs of Lincoln plead guilty on Nov. 7, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. Enochs, 45, was sentenced with deferred disposition with an order to repay $7,803 in restitution. If successful he will serve a seven day jail sentence and the charges will be reduced to misdemeanor.
Blaine McLaughlin of Baileyville plead guilty on Nov. 17, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. McLaughlin, 46, was sentenced to 18 months in jail, all suspended, with two years probation and 60 hours of community service. He has been ordered to pay $4,158 in restitution.
Joshua Underwood of Harmony plead guilty on Nov. 17, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. Underwood, 40, was sentenced to 9 months in jail, all suspended, with two years probation and 20 hours of community service. He has been ordered to pay $5,376 in restitution.
David Denbow of Marshfield plead guilty on Nov. 17, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. Denbow, 46, was sentenced to 9 months in jail, all suspended, with one year probation. He has been ordered to pay $4,824 in restitution.
James Cushing of Perry plead guilty on Nov. 17, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. Cushing, 53, was sentenced to 60 hours of community service and ordered to pay $4,344 in restitution.
Keith Goodrich of Bar Harbor plead guilty on December 30, 2015, to theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments. Goodrich, 47, has paid restitution in full of $18,295 and has been sentenced to 30 days in jail.
“We will not tolerate unemployment fraud,” stated Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “Our investigators continue to identify and move felony cases to prosecution. To date in 2015, we have had 23 convictions and recovered through prosecution more than $85,000 in fraudulent payments with an additional $6,473 in penalties and interest; 78 fraud cases are pending with DAs.”
In 2012, a total of 15 cases were referred to district attorneys for prosecution, resulting in five convictions. In 2013, the department referred 88 cases with 18 convictions, and in 2014 the department referred 84 cases with 34 convictions.
“Fraud prosecution and prevention is a priority. We continuously improve our reporting systems, obtaining information more quickly and identifying potential fraud earlier than ever before,” Commissioner Paquette said. “Once identified, we can recover the funds through voluntary payments, prosecution, wage garnishments, offset of unemployment benefits and intercepts of federal and state tax returns and lottery winnings.”
The commissioner explained what constitutes fraud. “For people claiming benefits, unemployment insurance fraud usually involves someone misrepresenting information to qualify for benefits,” she said. “In these cases, individuals continued to claim benefits after returning to work. In other cases, individuals might report that they are looking for work when they are not, or they might report having contacted employers in their search for work that they did not actually contact. Some may file claims under false pretenses.”
To identify when people receiving benefits are hired for permanent work, the department cross-matches the list of active claimants against the National Directory of New Hires, the national wage records database and against employer-reported quarterly wage data.
The Department of Labor actively pursues the collection of benefit overpayments and any associated fines and interest. The collection process usually begins by contacting claimants to request repayment or establish a repayment schedule.
On the employer side of the unemployment system, fraud includes intentional misclassification of employees as independent contractors, misreporting worker wages to avoid payment of unemployment taxes and “SUTA dumping,” a rate manipulation practice for obtaining a lower tax rate than a company’s unemployment experience would otherwise allow.
Citizens can report instances of suspected unemployment fraud by phone, email, fax or mail; information is available at www.maine.gov/labor/unemployment/fraud.html . Tips can be kept confidential.