Alford plea in fraud case

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SANDPOINT — A Sandpoint man accused of cheating the state’s unemployment benefit program was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence after making full restitution.

Edward LaFrance Houston, 42, entered an Alford plea to an amended charge of misdemeanor theft. Under the plea, Houston admits no wrongdoing but concedes he could be convicted if the matter went to trial.

In exchange for the plea, the misdemeanor theft count supplanted 28 felony counts of making misrepresentations to gain benefits he was not entitled to from 2009 to 2013. He was accused of underreporting or failing to report his income during that time frame.

Houston’s employers, Bonner Concrete Products and Unicep Packaging, reported to the Idaho Department of Labor that he was paid $9,555, but Houston reported receiving only $3,295. As a result, Houston was paid $7,806 in benefits he was not entitled to, according to court documents.

Houston alleged misconduct was uncovered when the department’s auditing program detected discrepancies in what his employers reported paying him and what Houston reported receiving, court records indicate.

Houston admitted making misrepresentations on his disclosures during an administrative hearing conducted by the department, court documents state.

In addition to the suspended jail term, Houston was placed on probation for a year, court records indicate.

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