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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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The U.S. economy hasn’t been as stable as many of us are used to. In fact, unemployment claim filings have remained high for nearly a year.

If you are part of the 6 percent of Coloradoans still struggling to find employment, tapping into resources a bit more than legally allowed may have crossed your mind.

If so, you certainly aren’t the only one. Colorado has reported a spike in unemployment fraud, including for crimes like identity theft. One Coloradan reported that he received an unemployment benefits card for his mother — who had passed away over two years ago.

The expiration of benefits under the CARES Act has not stopped the fraudulent activity, as folks who are committing these fraud crimes have simply switched over the state’s unemployment system in order to maintain access to benefits.

Unfortunately, Colorado law enforcement will likely catch up with them. Learn more about unemployment fraud in Colorado and the criminal charges that typically follow these schemes.

Unemployment Fraud: What Is it?

Unemployment fraud in Colorado involves making false statements, withholding information, or filing false claims of being unemployed in order to secure benefits from the government. This can include actions such as:

  • Using a fake debit card for benefits
  • Underreporting earnings and hours
  • Failing to report work refusal
  • Not reporting employment
  • Making a false report about why you lost your job
  • Claiming to be an employee when you were really an independent contractor
  • Cashing the unemployment check of another person without their authorization
  • Obtaining unemployment benefits regularly in different states
  • Not reporting other types of compensation received

Most of the time, unemployment fraud is considered theft in Colorado, but it can also qualify as two other crimes: computer crimes and identity theft. Let’s take a closer look at penalties for convictions on all three.

Theft in Colorado

Denver Theft Crimes Lawyer

Theft is committed when a person knowingly obtains something of value through deception or without authorization. The penalties for theft depend on the value of what was stolen. For anything between $50 and $2,000, misdemeanor theft applies. The penalties include:

Class 3 Misdemeanor

For goods valued between $50 and $300, you can spend up to six months in prison and be responsible for fines of as much as $750.

Class 2 Misdemeanor

For goods valued at between $300 and $750, you can face up to one year in prison and face fines up to as much as $1,000.

Class 1 Misdemeanor

For goods valued between $750 and $2,000, you can face up to 18 months in prison and be responsible for fines for as much as $5,000.

For goods over $2,000 in value, felony theft charges apply. The breakdown for penalties is:

Class 6 Felony

For goods valued at between $2,000 and $5,000, you can face up to 18 months in prison and be responsible for fines up to $100,000.

Class 5 Felony

For goods valued between $5,000 and $20,000, you can face up to three years in prison and be responsible for fines up to $100,000.

Class 4 Felony

For goods valued between $20,000 and $100,000, you can face up to six years in prison and pay fines up to $500,000.

Class 3 Felony

For goods valued between $100,000 and $1 million, you can be sentenced to as much as 12 years in prison and be responsible for fines up to $750,000.

Class 2 Felony

For goods valued over $1 million, you can face up to 24 years in prison and face fines up to $1 million.

Identity Theft in Colorado

Identity theft is defined under Colorado law as using another person’s financial or personal identifying information to apply for unemployment benefits.

In Colorado, this is considered a Class 4 felony. If found guilty, you can be punished by up to six years in prison and be responsible for fines up to $500,000.

Computer Crimes in Colorado

Colorado Computer Crimes Defense

If you use a computer to execute any part of an unemployment fraud scheme to defraud the government of Colorado, then it can be charged as a computer crime. This includes using a computer to fill out an application for unemployment benefits fraudulently.

The penalties for computer crimes depend on the value of the theft that was committed using a computer. The breakdown of the penalties is:

Class 2 Misdemeanor

For crimes valued at less than $300, you can face up to one year in prison and be responsible for fines of up to $1,000.

Class 1 Misdemeanor

For damages valued between $300 and $1,000, you can face up to 18 months in prison and be responsible for as much as $5,000 in fines.

Class 4 Felony

For damages valued between $1,000 and $20,000, you can face up to six years in prison and be responsible for fines for as much as $500,000.

Class 3 Felony

For damages valued at $20,000 or more, you can face up to 12 years in prison and be responsible for fines of as much as $750,000.

 

About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.

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