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Defrauding WEDC Would Become Felony Under GOP Plan

People Who Make False Statements, Hide Information From Agency Could Face Up To 15 Years In Prison Under Bill

Shawn Johnson/WPR

A Republican lawmaker is circulating a bill that could send people to prison if they defraud the state’s economic development agency.

The bill by Powers Lake Republican Rep. Samantha Kerkman would make it a felony to make false statements on an application for a grant, loan or tax benefit from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. It would also make it a felony for someone to conceal information in order to secure a bigger award from WEDC.

Kerkman said it’s similar to plan she recently sponsored that would increase penalties for people who defraud the state’s unemployment insurance program.

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“It didn’t matter to me whether it was FoodShare benefits or WEDC — if you fraud the government out of taxpayer dollars, there should be some type of penalty,” she said.

Someone who violates the plan could face 15 years in prison and be fined up to $50,000.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Green Bay Democrat Sen. Dave Hansen.