NRS 612.445 - "Unemployment Insurance Fraud" (UIF) in Nevada

NRS 612.445 is the Nevada insurance fraud crime where people fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits that they are not entitled to. The statutes states:

A person shall not make a false statement or representation, knowing it to be false, or knowingly fail to disclose a material fact in order to obtain or increase any [unemployment insurance] benefit or other payment[.]

Five common examples of unemployment insurance fraud (UIF) include:

  1. collecting unemployment while secretly working at another job or lying about looking for another job
  2. collecting other monies (such as a pension) without reporting it to the state while on unemployment insurance
  3. using a fake name, social security number, etc., to receive unemployment benefits while continuing to work elsewhere
  4. fabricating an employer and claiming to be a laid-off employee in order to receive unemployment benefits
  5. lying about being laid-off instead of fired in order to obtain benefits

The punishment for violating NRS 612.445 depends on how much money the defendant allegedly made from the UIF. In every case, the defendant must pay restitution in Nevada back to the Employment Security Division of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

 Benefits fraudulently obtained through UIF

Penalties in Nevada

Less than $650

Misdemeanor in Nevada:

  • up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines, and
  • repayment of the benefits plus 15%

$650 to less than $3,500

Category C felony in Nevada:

  • 1 - 5 years in Nevada State Prison,
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • repayment of the benefits plus 15%

$3,500 or more

Category B felony in Nevada:

  • 1 - 10 years in prison,
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • repayment of the benefits plus 15%

But it may be possible for a skilled defense attorney to get the charges dismissed or reduced through a Nevada plea bargain. Possible defense arguments to NRS 612.445 allegations include:

  1. The government made an administrative error;
  2. The defendant had no intent to defraud; or
  3. The defendant was the victim of identity theft

In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of unemployment insurance fraud. Scroll down or click on a topic below to jump to that section:

no sign
UI fraud can be a felony or a misdemeanor in Nevada.

1. Legal Definition of “Unemployment Insurance Fraud” in Nevada

NRS 612.445 makes it a crime for people to lie in order to obtain or increase their unemployment insurance benefits by:

  • failing to properly report earnings;
  • filing a claim for benefits using the social security number, name or other personal identifying information of another person;
  • filing a claim for or receiving benefits and failing to disclose any compensation for a temporary total disability or a temporary partial disability or money for rehabilitative services; or
  • any other intentionally fraudulent act or omission1

Example: Max was fired from his blackjack dealer job at the Mirage for stealing chips from the table. Max then files for unemployment insurance and claims that he was laid-off due to downsizing. The Nevada Employment Security Division investigates and discovers that Max was lying about how he lost his job. They inform the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, who then arrest Max and book him at the Clark County Detention Center for unemployment insurance fraud.

Max in the above example could liable for UI fraud because he lied about being laid off in order to collect on benefits he was ineligible for. 

Note that Nevada has a separate statute prohibiting employers from fraudulently trying to reduce or eliminate their payment requirements.2 Typical scenarios of unemployment insurance fraud perpetrated by employers are:

  • lying about why an employee was terminated or about their salaries in order to avoid paying out insurance money; or
  • intentionally withholding employee deductions and not paying them to the state

1.1. Investigation and prosecution of UI Fraud in Nevada

The Nevada Employment Security Division is skilled at finding “red flags” in UI applications that suggest the claimant is lying. If the Division believes fraud may have occurred, the case will be referred to law enforcement.

Note that a claimant who makes multiple false statements in support of a UI claim face prosecution for just that one claim, not for the multiple misrepresentations:3

Example: Stella is employed full-time in Mesquite but is struggling to pay her bills. She fills out an unemployment insurance application and claims to have been laid-off. Later the Nevada Employment Security Division calls Stella to ask some questions, and Stella lies about not having a pension.

If the Division discovers her two misrepresentations, the Mesquite Police could arrest her and book her at the Mesquite Detention Center for UI fraud. But even though she lied twice -- about being laid-off and not having a pension -- she faces only one UI fraud charge. This is because Stella made only one UI claim, and both lies were in support of that claim.

unemployment line
Fired workers may not collect unemployment insurance.

If Stella in the above example falsely applied for unemployment insurance on two separate occasions, then she could face two counts of UI fraud in Nevada.

1.2. Eligibility for unemployment insurance

The purpose of unemployment insurance (UI) is to help sustain recently laid-off workers while they search for new jobs. The program is funded by taxes paid by employers.

In order to be eligible for UI in Nevada, the former employee (“claimants”) must meet the following qualifications:

  • Claimants must be unemployed or employed less than full-time;
  • Claimants must have been out of work through no fault of their own;
  • Claimants must be available to search for and accept employment customary to their normal occupation;
  • Claimants must not refuse suitable work when offered;
  • Claimants must be physically and mentally able to work; and
  • Claimants must have worked long enough to qualify for unemployment benefits:4

2. Penalties for unemployment insurance fraud in Nevada

NRS 612.445 treats UIF as a type of Nevada theft crime. The punishment turns on the amount of money the defendant illegally obtained. In addition, defendants are required to repay the Department of Employment all the benefits they received:

2.1. Less than $650

Obtaining less than $650 from unemployment insurance fraud is a misdemeanor, carrying:

  • up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

2.2. $650 to less than $3,500

Obtaining at least $650 but less than $3,500 from unemployment insurance fraud is a category C felony, carrying:

  • one to five (1 - 5) years in prison,
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • restitution

2.3. $3,500 or more

Obtaining at least $3,500 from unemployment insurance fraud is a category B felony, carrying:

  • one to ten (1 - 10) years in prison,
  • up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion), and
  • restitution

2.4. Civil penalties

In addition to full repayments, Nevada's Department of Employment will fine UIF defendants 15% of the wrongfully obtained benefits. So if someone illegally received $1,000 in benefits, he/she must repay not only the $1,000 but also an additional $150.

Finally, the Department of Employment may impose another fine based on the amount of benefits that defendants received through the UI fraud:

 Benefits obtained through UIF

Possible Civil Penalty

 Greater than $25 to at least $1,000

 5% of the restitution amount

 Greater than $1,000 to at least $2,500

 $10 of the restitution amount

 Greater than $2,500

 35% of the restitution amount

Note that defendants found liable for UIF will be barred from receiving future unemployment insurance fraud benefits until their benefits are repaid or until 52 weeks have passed since the fraudulent claim was filed (whichever is later). However, the Department can make exceptions in certain situations.5

3. Fighting Nevada charges of unemployment insurance fraud

clerical error sign
Sometimes people are falsely accused of violating NRS 612.445 due to a clerical error.

The following are three common defense strategies to fight Nevada charges of unemployment insurance fraud:

  1. Administrative error
  2. No fraudulent intent
  3. Mistaken identity

3.1. Administrative error

Nevada judges are aware that government agencies are clumsy bureaucracies that make mistakes and may blame innocent people. The Nevada Employment Security Division handles tens of thousands of cases, and inevitably some fall through the cracks.

If the defense attorney can show that the defendant is a victim of a clerical error, the UI fraud case should be dropped.

3.2. Lack of fraudulent intent

Nevada judges are also aware that applying for unemployment insurance is confusing. It is easy for well-meaning people to make honest mistakes, especially for Nevadans who speak little or no English.6

Typical errors are writing the wrong social security number, miscalculating earnings, and forgetting to report freelance income. As long as the prosecution cannot demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with intent to defraud, the UI fraud charges should be dismissed.

3.3. Mistaken identity

In some UIF cases, defendants turn out to be the victims of identity theft. The real culprits steal the defendant's personal information in an attempt to collect benefits for themselves.

Typical evidence in these cases includes electronic records, surveillance video, and recorded communications. If the prosecution cannot show that the defendant is the one who propagated the fraud, then the case should result in a dismissal.

4. Deportation for unemployment insurance fraud

UIF is likely a deportable crime in Nevada, especially if the defendant obtained several thousands of dollars in unearned benefits. Aliens facing NRS 612.445 charges are encouraged to consult with experienced counsel who may be able to negotiate a charge reduction to a non-deportable offense.

Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

5. Sealing Nevada criminal records for unemployment insurance fraud

Defendants who have their UIF charges dismissed can pursue a criminal record seal right away in Nevada. Otherwise, the waiting period to apply for a record seal depends on what category of crime the defendant was convicted of:7

Class of UIF conviction in Nevada

Record seal wait time

Category B felony

5 years after the case ends

Category C felony

5 years after the case ends

Misdemeanor

1 year after the case ends

Learn more about how to seal Nevada criminal records / background checks.

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Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

If you have been charged with “unemployment insurance fraud” in Las Vegas, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone meeting. We may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped so your record stays clean.

We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Clark County, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.

Return to our main page on Nevada fraud crimes.

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

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our information page on Colorado unemployment fraud | C.R.S. 18-4-401.


Legal References

  1. NRS 612.445  Repayment of benefits received as result of false statement or failure to disclose material fact; penalty for unemployment insurance fraud; disqualification.

          1.  A person shall not make a false statement or representation, knowing it to be false, or knowingly fail to disclose a material fact in order to obtain or increase any benefit or other payment under this chapter, including, without limitation, by:

          (a) Failing to properly report earnings;

          (b) Filing a claim for benefits using the social security number, name or other personal identifying information of another person; or

          (c) Filing a claim for or receiving benefits and failing to disclose, at the time he or she files the claim or receives the benefits, any compensation for a temporary total disability or a temporary partial disability or money for rehabilitative services pursuant to chapters 616A to 616D, inclusive, or 617 of NRS received by the person or for which a claim has been submitted pursuant to those chapters.

    --> A person who violates the provisions of this subsection commits unemployment insurance fraud.

          2.  When the Administrator finds that a person has committed unemployment insurance fraud pursuant to subsection 1, the person shall repay to the Administrator for deposit in the Fund a sum equal to all of the benefits received by or paid to the person for each week with respect to which the false statement or representation was made or to which the person failed to disclose a material fact in addition to any interest, penalties and costs related to that sum. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3 of NRS 612.480, the Administrator may make an initial determination finding that a person has committed unemployment insurance fraud pursuant to subsection 1 at any time within 4 years after the first day of the benefit year in which the person committed the unemployment insurance fraud.

          3.  Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and subsection 8, the person is disqualified from receiving unemployment compensation benefits under this chapter:

          (a) For a period beginning with the week in which the Administrator issues a finding that the person has committed unemployment insurance fraud pursuant to subsection 1 and ending not more than 52 consecutive weeks after the week in which it is determined that a claim was filed in violation of subsection 1; or

          (b) Until the sum described in subsection 2, in addition to any interest, penalties or costs related to that sum, is repaid to the Administrator,

    --> whichever is longer. The Administrator shall fix the period of disqualification according to the circumstances in each case.

          4.  It is a violation of subsection 1 for a person to file a claim, or to cause or allow a claim to be filed on his or her behalf, if:

          (a) The person is incarcerated in the state prison or any county or city jail or detention facility or other correctional facility in this State; and

          (b) The claim does not expressly disclose his or her incarceration.

          5.  A person who obtains benefits of $650 or more in violation of subsection 1 shall be punished in the same manner as theft pursuant to subsection 3 or 4 of NRS 205.0835.

          6.  In addition to the repayment of benefits required pursuant to subsection 2, the Administrator:

          (a) Shall impose a penalty equal to 15 percent of the total amount of benefits received by the person in violation of subsection 1. Money recovered by the Administrator pursuant to this paragraph must be deposited in the Unemployment Trust Fund in accordance with the provisions of NRS 612.590.

          (b) May impose a penalty equal to not more than:

                (1) If the amount of such benefits is greater than $25 but not greater than $1,000, 5 percent;

                 (2) If the amount of such benefits is greater than $1,000 but not greater than $2,500, 10 percent; or

                 (3) If the amount of such benefits is greater than $2,500, 35 percent,

    --> of the total amount of benefits received by the person in violation of subsection 1 or any other provision of this chapter. Money recovered by the Administrator pursuant to this paragraph must be deposited in the Employment Security Fund in accordance with the provisions of NRS 612.615.

          7.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 8, a person may not pay benefits as required pursuant to subsection 2 by using benefits which would otherwise be due and payable to the person if he or she was not disqualified.

          8.  The Administrator may waive the period of disqualification prescribed in subsection 3 for good cause shown or if the person adheres to a repayment schedule authorized by the Administrator that is designed to fully repay benefits received from an improper claim, in addition to any related interest, penalties and costs, within 18 months. If the Administrator waives the period of disqualification pursuant to this subsection, the person may repay benefits as required pursuant to subsection 2 by using any benefits which are due and payable to the person, except that benefits which are due and payable to the person may not be used to repay any related interest, penalties and costs.

          9.  The Administrator may recover any money required to be paid pursuant to this section in accordance with the provisions of NRS 612.365 and may collect interest on any such money in accordance with the provisions of NRS 612.620.

    Nevada Employment Sec. Dep't v. Nacheff, 104 Nev. 347, 757 P.2d 787 (1988)(Lexis: "Even if the claimant did not understand part of the benefit application, he knew the reason for his separation was not lack of work and misrepresented the facts concerning his separation by checking the box marked “laid off, lack of work”; therefore, he was liable for repayment of the benefits which had been paid.").

  2. NRS 612.730.
  3. Perelman v. State, 981 P.2d 1199, 115 Nev. 190 (1999)(Lexis: "Insurance fraud is a continuing offense and the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the continuous commitment of the offense is completed. Much like the continuing crime of welfare fraud, misrepresentations and false statements filed in support of insurance benefits are the result of a single, criminal intent and a continuous course of conduct").
  4. Unemployment eligibility, Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
  5. NRS 612.445; See Tony Garcia, "Las Vegas man to serve at least 3 years in prison for unemployment insurance fraud," News 3 NBC KSNV (September 13, 2017).
  6. See How unemployment benefits fraud has cost Nevada millions, KNPR State of Nevada (Dec. 22, 2011).
  7. NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.

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