CHEYENNE – Jason Hite, former resident of Gillette, has been convicted of unemployment insurance fraud and was ordered to pay $7,340 in restitution to the State of Wyoming. Hite was found to have been wrongfully filing and collecting unemployment benefits while gainfully employed. He will serve probation for three years and is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for two years. Hite’s case was initiated by the benefit payment control unit of the Unemployment Insurance Division (UI) within the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS). The successful prosecution was lead by the Campbell County Attorney’s Office.
“Unemployment insurance is meant to help individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own and who are actively looking for work. We are working diligently to hold those committing fraud accountable,” said DWS Director Joan Evans. “I want to thank the Campbell County Attorney’s Office for their efforts to address fraud.”
DWS cross matches unemployment benefit claims with employer wage reports regularly to identify potential overpayments. Additionally, benefit payment control officers within the division flag possible abuse. The agency relies on Wyoming district and county attorneys to prosecute fraudsters.
The potential recovery of improper payments made due to fraudulent claims is estimated to be nearly $2 million. The recovered monies would be returned to the state through restitution if prosecution is successful.
Most fraudulent overpayments are the result of claimants working while receiving unemployment benefits and not reporting those earnings. Common cases of unemployment insurance program abuse include misrepresentation of the circumstances of separation from the employer and falsely claiming work searches while receiving benefits. The recovered unemployment benefit monies will be returned to the UI Trust Fund which issues unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
Recent federal and state legislation raised fine amounts for individuals who have defrauded the unemployment insurance system. These individuals will be penalized with a 20 percent fine on the amount of fraudulent benefits received. The penalty will be collected and used by the department to further improve integrity efforts.