Unemployment Worker Sentenced for Illegally Taking Benefits
ST. CLOUD -- A Clearwater woman must pay more than $5,000 in restitution, be on probation for two years and provide 80 hours of community service for illegally collecting unemployment benefits for her husband while she worked for a state agency that handles unemployment claims.
Thirty-seven-year-old Kati Werner was charged with two counts of theft-by swindle, but she agreed to an Alford plea on an amended charge of gross misdemeanor unemployment benefits fraud - false representation/concealment of fact. An Alford plea is where a defendant maintains they're innocent of the crime, but admits the prosecution has enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Court records show Werner accessed her husband's account and requested unemployment benefits while he was employed. Werner was working at the Unemployment Insurance Call Center in St. Cloud at the time and would have had knowledge of the system because her job was to assist customers with claims.
A Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development spokesman says she is no longer employed by the agency.
According to the criminal complaint, Werner submitted the unemployment requests between February 2015 and April 2015 and between November 2015 through April 2016. Records show a total of $5,400 in overpayments were submitted by Werner through her husband's account in those timeframes.