Unemployment Fraud in Colorado


In Colorado, unemployment fraud involves knowingly making a false statement or withholding information to receive unemployment benefits. This subjects one to criminal theft charges in Colorado. In addition to possible jail time and fines, a conviction for unemployment fraud may require penalty payments in addition to the overpayments received through unemployment fraud.

In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

1. What is unemployment fraud?

Unemployment fraud involves making a false statement, filing a false claim for unemployment, or withholding information in order to receive unemployment benefits. This includes:

  • Underreporting hours and earnings
  • Failing to report employment
  • Obtaining benefits from multiple states
  • Failing to report other types of compensation
  • Cashing another person's unemployment check without authorization
  • Falsely reporting looking for a job
  • Falsely reporting the reason for losing your job
  • Failing to report work refusal

Most unemployment fraud in Colorado is a violation of the state's laws against larceny or theft. Under C.R.S. 18-4-401, a person commits theft when they knowingly obtain anything of value without authorization or through deception.

2. What are the penalties for unemployment fraud?

Under C.R.S. 18-4-401, the penalties for unemployment fraud depend on the extent of the fraud and value of unemployment benefits unlawfully received. Unemployment fraud can be a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the amount of fraud involved.

Value of Unemployment Fraud

Class of Criminal Offense


$50 or more but less than $300

Class 3 Misdemeanor

Up to 6 months in jail and a fine between $50 and $750

$300 or more but less than $750

Class 2 Misdemeanor

3 to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000

$750 or more but less than $2,000

Class 1 Misdemeanor

6 to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000

$2,000 or more but less than $5,000

Class 6 Felony

12 to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $100,000

$5,000 or more but less than $20,000

Class 5 Felony

1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000

$20,000 or more but less than $100,000

Class 4 Felony

2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000

$100,000 or more but less than $1 million

Class 3 Felony

4 to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000

$1 million or more

Class 2 Felony

8 to 24 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000

In addition to prison time and fines, there is a mandatory penalty for receiving overpaid unemployment insurance. If any person receives an overpayment because of his or her false representation or willful failure to disclose a material fact, they shall pay to the Division of Unemployment Insurance the total amount of the overpayment plus a 65% monetary penalty.1

A person who receives overpayment may also be denied benefits for a 4-week period for each week they unlawfully received unemployment benefits.

In some cases, individuals prosecuted for unemployment fraud may be listed on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment fraud prevention website. This includes listing the individual's name and county of residence.

3. Can I pay back my unemployment to avoid penalties?

If you received an overpayment through no fault of your own, you may be required to pay back the overpayments. Overpayments can occur because a hearing officer reverses a previous award, you are disqualified because you are responsible for losing your job, or because of administrative error.

Overpayments can be paid back using the online MyUI system or through the mail. If you are unable to pay back overpayments, contact the Division of Unemployment Insurance to find out about a repayment agreement.

If you received overpayments due to fraud or knowing misrepresentation, you may still face criminal charges even if you offer to pay back the benefits. You may also be charged an additional penalty for receiving overpayments.

4. What are defenses to charges of unemployment fraud?

There are many defenses to charges of unemployment fraud. This includes:

  • You did not intend to commit unemployment fraud
  • You believed you were submitting an accurate and legitimate unemployment claim
  • Incorrect information was entered by mistake or was a typo
  • You were a victim of identity theft

5. What if I am being investigated by unemployment in Colorado?

Colorado's Division of Unemployment Insurance conducts random audits to reduce fraud and detect overpayments. This includes a review of employer records, payroll, work-search contacts, employment office records, and statements for individuals filing for unemployment benefits. You may be contacted if your claim is selected for review. If you receive a Notice of Decision that reduces or denies your benefits, you may file a written appeal.

The CDLE also reviews cases of reported unemployment fraud. The CDLE provides online fraud reporting forms that allow individuals to confidentially report fraud.

6. Related Offenses

Unemployment fraud may involve other related offenses. This includes identity theft charges when another person's information was used to get unemployment benefits. It may also involve a computer crime if a computer was used in filing for unemployment benefits.

6.1 Identity Theft C.R.S. 18-5-902

In Colorado, it is a criminal offense to use another person's personal or financial identifying information to obtain anything of value. This includes using another person's identity to file a claim for unemployment benefits. Identity theft is a class 4 felony in Colorado. Penalties for identity theft include 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

6.2 Computer Crime C.R.S. 18-5.5-102

In Colorado, it is a computer crime to access any computer, computer network, or computer system for the purpose of executing any scheme to defraud. This includes reporting false information to the Division of Unemployment Insurance to receive unemployment benefits. The criminal penalties for computer crimes depend on the value of theft or loss.

Call us for help...

If you have been accused of unemployment fraud or are being investigated by the Division of Unemployment Insurance, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with criminal fraud offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.

Arrested in California? Go to our information page on California unemployment insurance fraud | California Unemployment Insurance Code 2101.

Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada unemployment insurance fraud (NRS 612.445).

Legal References

  1. C.R.S. 8-81-101(4)(a)(II)

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