For those thinking about applying for unemployment benefits without being eligible, remember the Utah Department of Employment Security has a spotless record when it comes to prosecuting unemployment benefit fraud cases in the past five years.

During that period, the department has prosecuted 400 unemployment benefit fraud cases and won them all. Utah officials also have an agreement with surrounding states to prevent people from attempting to avoid prosecution by leaving the state.Evan Mattinson, supervisor of the fraud prevention and control section for the department, said over that period the department has recovered $8.4 million in overpayments and interest from those committing fraud. "While we believe most claimants are honest, we will continue to vigorously seek out and prosecute those who are not," he said.

A typical case occurred recently when a woman was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for attempting to file her ex-husband's claim for unemployment benefits after he returned to work. The scheme involved a man who portrayed her ex-husband and the use of stolen identification.

Several methods of detecting the fraud include computer crossmatch, regular random audits and tips from the public about people who may be taking advantage of the system. The penalty for committing fraud in Utah is higher than surrounding states and includes a criminal and administrative penalty in addition to a jail sentence.

To illustrate how Utah officials cooperate with their counterparts in surrounding states, Mattinson told of a recent case when a man moved to Utah from Montana and was successfully prosecuted by the Salt Lake County Attorney's office. Montana Job Service was listed as the victim and eventually received full restitution.