By Carson Gerber
Last month, a 34-year-old Peru man pleaded guilty in a Miami County court to felony charges of unemployment fraud. He must pay back more than $23,000 in fraudulently collected benefits.
Officials at the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said Clint Shepherd purposefully defrauded the unemployment benefit system by continuing to collect unemployment insurance after returning to a full-time job following a layoff.
The state began investing Shepherd after his employer notified Workforce Development it was being charged for Shepherd’s unemployment, but he was currently working full-time at the business.
“When someone continues to collect unemployment insurance benefits after returning to full-time employment, he or she is committing fraud,” said Scott B. Sanders, Workforce Development commissioner. “We take unemployment fraud seriously. It is a crime that affects everyone’s bottom line.”
Shepherd received a sentence of three years’ probation, but faces prison time if he violates the conditions of his plea agreement. He must also repay Workforce Development $23,610 in benefits he illegally collected, plus penalties and interest.
Joe Frank, Workforce Development communications director, said the department discovered 18 instances of unemployment fraud last year, up from 10 cases in 2011.
“Finding cases of unemployment fraud has been a big initiative here at Workforce Development,” he said.
Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached by phone at 765-854-6739, or by email at email@example.com.