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NEW UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD PENALTIES GO INTO EFFECT APRIL 1

 NEW UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD PENALTIES GO INTO EFFECT APRIL 1
 DETROIT, March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- A series of new state laws that


stiffen penalties for those who try to defraud the state's unemployment insurance program will go into effect this Wednesday, April 1.
 F. Robert Edwards, director of the Michigan Employment Security Commission (MESC), said the laws were part of a seven-bill package, approved by Gov. John Engler and the Legislature last year, which revise all of the criminal penalties in the state's unemployment insurance (UI) law.
 "The laws establish uniform penalties for attempts to defraud Michigan's unemployment insurance program through embezzlement, conspiracy, coercion, tax violations and other related crimes," Edwards said.
 The new laws establish equal penalties for similar criminal offenses against the UI program, whether the person is a claimant filing for jobless benefits, an employer, an MESC employee or another third party.
 "The severity of the penalties will depend upon the magnitude of the crime," Edwards said, "and could include repayment of the illegally obtained unemployment benefits or willful tax withholdings, damage payments and a combination of jail time and community service."
 The changes also consolidate all criminal violations of the unemployment insurance program under provisions of the Michigan Employment Security Act rather than mixing them between the Act and the state's Penal Code.
 "These new laws should increase the likelihood of criminal prosecution for those who attempt to defraud the unemployment insurance system," Edwards said. "The penalties fit the crime. For example, jail terms have been reduced for lesser offenses and community service has become an alternative. In addition, monetary fines have been increased to as much as three times' the amount involved in the violation."
 Edwards said that anyone who becomes aware of efforts to defraud the unemployment insurance program can contact MESC with information by dialing its toll-free fraud hotline at 1-800-822-1122.
 "The intent of these new laws is to protect Michigan's unemployment trust fund from any attempts to defraud the system and to warn those who try that they will be subject to enforceable penalties," Edwards said.
 These law changes were prompted by legislative concern that employers, claimants and MESC employees did not all receive the same penalties for committing similar crimes against the unemployment program.
 The Legislature's concern was raised after felony penalties for conspiracy were added to the MES Act in 1990.
 -0- 3/30/92
 /CONTACT: Norman Isotalo of the Michigan Employment Security Commission, 313-876-5488/ CO: Michigan Employment Security Commission ST: Michigan IN: SU:


DH -- DE006 -- 2743 03/30/92 09:31 EST
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Date:Mar 30, 1992
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