November 8, 2017
Collected benefits while employed.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 8, 2017
Contact: Laura Hudson, Maine Department of Labor, 207-621-5009
AUGUSTA— Rebecca Tetlow of Gouldsboro, Maine has been convicted of theft by deception for fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance payments.
Tetlow, age 37, worked and earned wages while collecting benefits in 2015 and 2016. She plead guilty on June 30, 2017 and was sentenced to four years in the Department of Corrections (with all suspended), three years of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution to the Department of Labor in the amount of $10,484. Tetlow may serve the four year sentence if she fails to pay restitution.
“Collecting unemployment benefits under false pretenses is a crime. It takes money away from people who are genuinely in need,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Furthermore, fraud burdens the businesses that pay the unemployment taxes that provide the benefits. The Department of Labor has ways of identifying fraud and is actively referring cases to the District Attorneys for prosecution.”
The Department of Labor uses a number of collection processes for fraudulent claims including intercept of federal and state tax refunds, wage garnishment, lottery winnings offsets, offset of unemployment benefits, and voluntary payments from debtors to recover millions of tax-payer dollars each year.
“Unemployment benefit Fraud detection and prosecution is a priority for the department. Fraud involving principal amounts of $1,000 or more are considered felonies under Maine law and we are aggressively moving these cases to prosecution,” Commissioner Butera said.
In 2017 alone, the Maine Department of Labor recovered more than $5.56 million in improper payments, including amounts from six cases which have resulted in convictions. Currently, 125 cases are pending in the District Attorney’s offices.
For people claiming benefits, unemployment insurance fraud usually involves someone misrepresenting information to qualify for benefits. In this case, an individual 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 and against employer-reported quarterly wage data.
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 http://www.maine.gov/labor/unemployment/fraud.html . Tips can be kept confidential.
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