"An Act relating to the crimes of unsworn falsification in the first degree involving an application for a permanent fund dividend and false information or report involving eligibility for a permanent fund dividend; requiring the establishment of a permanent fund dividend fraud investigation unit in the Department of Revenue; relating to service in the peace corps and as a member of the United States Olympic Team as allowable absences from the state for purposes of eligibility for permanent fund dividends and to the period for filing an application for a permanent fund dividend; authorizing the Department of Revenue to issue administrative orders imposing sanctions for certain misrepresentations or other actions concerning eligibility for a permanent fund dividend and providing for administrative appeal of those orders; and providing for an effective date. "
"In summary, the DOR's proposal to elevate PFD fraud from a simple misdemeanor to a class C felony is expected to provide a more effective deterrent for this type of theft."
- Sen. Seekins
Senate Bill 104 seeks to strengthen the Department of Revenue's ability to investigate fraud associated with making a false application for a permanent fund dividend. Furthermore, submission of a fraudulent permanent fund dividend application would be elevated from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony.
In 2004 the Department of Revenue (DOR) examined over 1,600 fraud tips and audited over 1,700 permanent fund dividend (PFD) applications suspected of being fraudulent. This resulted in $1.4 million in denied or assessed dividends (1,500+ applications). Furthermore, there were three federal indictments and one conviction for crimes involving PFD fraud.
The most common PFD fraud offense involves persons who forge the signature of another on the application (or related documents) with the intent of receiving a dividend to which they are not entitled. It's important to note that the bill is not intended to capture, for example, cases where husbands or wives sign for each other. However, the provisions of this legislation would apply in cases where the individual is attempting to steal from another person or from the state.
Within the crime of unsworn falsification, Senate Bill 104 creates two offending categories: second degree, punishable as a class A misdemeanor, and first degree, punishable as a class C felony. Much of the bill is dedicated to sprinkling into the statutes the qualifying phrase "in the second degree". This is necessary to describe the appropriate level of offense now associated with most crimes of unsworn falsification.
The real meat of the bill is found in Sections 7 and 20. Section 7 speaks to unsworn falsification as it relates to a person making an application for a permanent fund dividend. An offense of this nature would be a violation in the first degree punishable as a class C felony.
Section 20 adds language establishing a fraud investigation unit within the Department of Revenue. This unit will assist the Department of Law in its efforts to investigate and prosecute instances of PFD fraud.
In summary, the DOR's proposal to elevate PFD fraud from a simple misdemeanor to a class C felony is expected to provide a more effective deterrent for this type of theft. Furthermore, the establishment of a fraud investigation unit within the DOR will greatly aid in the detection and prosecution of this criminal act.