After 9NEWS looked at the strides the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has taken to curb its overpayment of unemployment benefits, we are now looking into the Coloradans the state says have cheated the system, and what the Department of Labor is doing to catch them.
We've learned most of those caught don't do jail time because the state can't get those stolen funds back if they're sitting in jail and not working to repay what they stole.
The names of those who get caught end up on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment website for the public to see.
The Department of Labor calls it a shame tactic.
"We're hoping that publishing the names of those convicted will serve as a deterrent," Cher Haavind, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment spokesperson, said.
To date this year, the people listed on the online "fraud prosecution" list were ordered to pay more than $617,000 in restitution.
Most of them were found during routine audits.
"It's very humiliating, very degrading," a woman whose name is on the list told 9NEWS. She asked not to be identified.
"I feel a deep-sorrow for doing that," another man who was caught, and is also not being identified, said.
Last year, the Department of Labor says 276,000 Coloradans collected an estimated total of $900 million in unemployment benefits.
The Department of Labor estimates that the fraudsters stole only about .07 percent of the total paid out. That still adds up to $6 million.
"Employers fund this system, so when somebody is fraudulently collecting benefits they're actually stealing from employers," Haavind said.
Brian Martinez, for example, was ordered to pay nearly $11,000 in restitution last April after a multi-year investigation.
According to court records, Martinez filed for unemployment benefits on Aug. 17, 2006. Four days later he began working at Team Electric, a contractor in Denver.
Investigators say check after check continued to be deposited into Martinez's account, even though he was working.
Like most companies, Team Electric had no idea their new employee was double-dipping.
According to court documents, Martinez told investigators he was having "financial problems" and "needed the money to survive."
Martinez didn't return our latest calls and requests for an interview.
"We look at about 120 cases a year in fraud," Haavind explained.
9NEWS spent the past few weeks trying to track down the people on the list.
One woman and one man agreed to talk to us if we kept them anonymous.
9NEWS felt it was important to find out why they did it.
"It's not worth it. It was just a very hard time, I had to take care of myself and my family," the woman told us.
She admits she stole thousands in unemployment benefits while she was working.
Not only did she plead guilty in the case, but she was ordered to pay thousands more than she stole in fees and other costs as part of her restitution.
"I apologize to the State of Colorado because it's for people that need it, and it's not to be taken advantage of," the woman said.
"I have deep remorse," the man said.
Like most of the double-dippers, the state cut a deal with them: no jail time and the charges would be dropped if they pay the full restitution and follow other court orders.
"I am glad I didn't have to do any jail time so that I'm still able to be out and work and provide for my family," the woman said.
The man and woman have a warning for others who may be doing what they did.
"Stop and think about what you're doing," the man said.
"It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life and I'm paying for it dearly," the woman added.
On Tuesday, in part one of our series about overpaid unemployment, we told you more than 17 percent of the benefits the state paid out last year, an estimated $158 million, were considered improper payments for things like administrative errors, paperwork mistakes, government changes and cases being held up in court.
Fraud does make up 4 percent of that total.
To fight back against the high rate of improper payments and fraudsters, the Department of Labor has added investigators and staff working on claims.
The state is currently offering a fraud amnesty program, and if cheaters come forward between now and the end of the year, they can work out a plan with the state to repay the fraudulent funds and avoid penalties and prosecution.
You can find out more on the fraud amnesty program at http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDLE-UnempBenefits/CDLE/1251599834500.
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