PERHAM, Maine — An Aroostook County man was found guilty this week in Caribou District Court in connection with fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance benefits, according to a release from the Maine Department of Labor.
Edward C. Spence, 28, of Perham was convicted Tuesday of theft by deception after collecting unemployment benefits while working, according to the release.
He was sentenced to four years in jail with all but 10 months suspended, three years probation and must pay restitution of $14,196.
“Obtaining benefits under false pretenses is a crime. It takes money away from people who are genuinely in need,” Gov. Paul R. LePage said in the release. “Furthermore, unemployment fraud burdens the businesses that pay taxes to fund benefits.”
According to the Maine Department of Labor, unemployment benefit fraud involving more than $1,000 is a felony under Maine law.
“The Department [of Labor] is aggressively moving felony cases to prosecution,” Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette said in the release.
“For people claiming benefits, unemployment insurance fraud usually involves someone misrepresenting information to qualify for benefits,” she said. “In this case, an individual continued to claim benefits after returning to work.”
Other cases of fraud could include individuals reporting that they are looking for work when they are not, not actually contacting potential employers despite reporting having done so, or filing claims under false pretenses, Paquette said.
Citizens can report instances of suspected unemployment fraud by phone, email, fax or mail; information is available at www.maine.gov/labor/unemployment/fraud.html. Tips can be kept confidential.