A Twin Falls man has pleaded guilty to five counts of fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits and faces up to five years in prison on each county when he is sentenced this fall.
Richard H. Ratliff, 45, admitted obtaining nearly $7,000 in benefits over 18 weeks in fall 2010 after lying about the fact that he was earning over $9,200 working as an equipment operator for a local commodity hauler during the same 18 weeks.
Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker set Oct. 18 for sentencing. In addition to the maximum prison time of five years, Stoker could also impose fines up to $50,000 per count.
The Idaho Department of Labor has already recovered through wage garnishment over $1,600 Ratliff owed in penalties and $540 of the benefits. Ratliff will not be eligible for future unemployment benefits until the remaining $6,400 is recovered.
Ratliff initially told an Idaho Department of Labor fraud investigator that he did not think he had to report his earnings or work at the trucking company and then later acknowledged that he was trying to make up for the loss of income when he moved from a job that had paid $20 an hour to the trucking company that paid $12.
Under state law, a person can continue to collect unemployment benefits while working part time if the claimant makes less than 150 percent of the weekly benefit. A claimant can make up to half the weekly benefit and still receive the entire benefit amount. For every dollar earned over half the benefit amount, the benefit is reduced by a dollar.