Lewisville man sentenced for unemployment benefit fraud

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - A Lewisville man faces 24 days in jail after pleading guilty to fraudulently obtaining nearly $18 thousand in unemployment insurance benefits.

Seventh District Judge Joel Tingey also sentenced 42-year-old David E. Pena to five years probation.  If Pena fails to meet the requirements of probation he could face a prison term of one to five years.

Pena was also ordered to make restitution for the benefits he received for 48 weeks from November 2008 to April 2010.  He will also pay court fees and fines of nearly $600 and serve 100 hours of community service after he is released.

Pena also owed the Idaho Department of Labor $4,100 in penalties for fraudulently securing benefits.  The department said $3,000 of that payment was recovered through garnishment of his wages between April and September, 2011.

An investigation by the department determined while Pena claimed he made less than $180 in any of the 48 weeks in question working for TMC Contractors Inc. of Idaho Falls, but wage records submitted quarterly by the company showed he made more than that, often hundreds of dollars more. Pena's benefit ranged between $338 and $364 a week because of the nature of his multiple claims.

Unemployment insurance claimants are allowed to earn up to half their weekly benefit without having the benefit reduced. But every dollar over half reduces the benefit by a dollar. In Pena's case, he was ineligible for any benefit payment during many of the weeks and a substantially reduced benefit in others. Records showed that while he reported earning $7,220 total for the 48 weeks, he was actually paid more than $24,300.

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