Georgetown man to serve 30 days for collecting unemployment benefits in prison

Posted Aug. 27, 2014, at 3:22 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A 35-year-old Georgetown man will spend 30 days in prison and must repay the state nearly $10,000 after a court found him guilty of fraudulently receiving unemployment compensation benefits while serving a prison sentence.

A Sagadahoc County Superior Court judge found Joshua Harwood guilty of felony theft by deception and sentenced him to 2½ years in prison, with all but 30 days suspended, and two years of probation, according to Department of Labor spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz said she could not immediately identify the judge who sentenced Harwood.

Harwood also must pay $9,212.76 in restitution, according to a Department of Labor release.

Under law, those filing for unemployment benefits must notify the Department of Labor weekly that they are able and available to work.

Rabinowitz said she was prevented by confidentiality rules from saying what Harwood was in prison for or the length of his original sentence.

According to the news release, the government has recovered more than $87,000 in fraudulent payments through prosecution in 2014, including about $23,000 in the month of August alone. In 2013, the government recovered $67,501. Ninety-two fraud cases are pending.

In the release, Gov. Paul LePage, who has made welfare reform and reducing fraud among recipients of government aid programs a keynote of his re-election campaign, said the recent convictions “send a strong message to people who abuse our unemployment system. Unemployment fraud hurts the safety net that protects workers who are laid off through no fault of their own. Fraud burdens the businesses that pay unemployment taxes to fund the benefits. Keeping money in the trust fund lowers taxes and preserves the benefits for people who need them.”

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