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Elkhart man sentenced for unemployment fraud

Posted on Sept. 19, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 19, 2013 at 4:32 p.m.

ELKHART — An Elkhart man admitted to unemployment fraud, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development announced Thursday, Sept. 19.

Willis Fields, 47, admitted in U.S. District Court in South Bend to felony unemployment insurance fraud.

A Department of Workforce Development investigator got a tip that Fields was getting wages from a full-time job while filing for unemployment benefits.

According to Fields’ guilty plea filed in court, “from in or around May, 2009, through and including July, 2010, I applied for and received extended unemployment insurance benefits through the State of Indiana Department of Workforce Development. I submitted weekly vouchers to IDWD and knowingly answered ‘No’ to the question as to whether I was working when in truth and in fact I was employed,” he wrote.

“I spent the unemployment benefit payments on personal expenses. I do not dispute that the money for these unemployment insurance benefits came from the federal government, extended unemployment insurance benefits and ARRA funds and was in the approximate amount of $16,000,” he wrote.

Judge Jon DeGuilio sentenced Fields to three years of probation with six months of home detention, and ordered him to pay total restitution of $27,610, according to court records.

“The conviction of Mr. Fields demonstrates our commitment to protecting the system that Hoosiers entrust us with,” said Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. “We take this responsibility seriously and will continue to work toward the successful prosecution of fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”

Fields pleaded guilty in March, the same day the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed charges, and Fields was sentenced in August, according to court records.

Fields began paying back the fraudulent unemployment benefits even before the court case was filed, with him paying back $1,000 between late August 2012, and when the case was filed in March, according to his attorney, Jeffery Haupt.