Richmond investigators crack down on unemployment fraud - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Richmond investigators crack down on unemployment fraud

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Local investigators are fighting a crime that costs Virginia taxpayers millions every year. Unemployment fraud occurs when people lie on their unemployment application to get benefits they don't deserve.

To commit unemployment fraud, all you have to do is check the wrong box on purpose.

Earlier this month, dozens of Virginians from across the state appeared in a Richmond courtroom having been accused of lying to get unemployment benefits they didn't deserve. More of these charges come every day.

"Every day we're looking for a situation where a person may have made false statements," said Roy Bryant, Manager of Investigations for the Virginia Employment Commission.

Bryant says, 250,000 Virginians received unemployment benefits in 2013. Approximately 7,500 lied on their applications, or about 3%.

Most VEC investigations start in the central office in downtown Richmond. Bryant says, investigators use databases like the Virginia New Hire Reporting Center to check if a person really is unemployed.

If not, they end up like the thousands who are prosecuted for "making a false statement to increase benefits," which is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, the person is required to pay back what he was overpaid.

In some cases, it can take months or years to recover the money but for the VEC its worth it to protect Virginia taxpayers.

Once convicted of unemployment fraud, you can't receive future benefits for one year or longer if the overpayment is not repaid in full.

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