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Can You Get Arrested for Lying on Your Resume?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Come on, who among us hasn't fudged a little on their resume? Maybe you inflated your job title or embellished your management experience. (No, managing to not get fired doesn't count as management experience.) But you're not going to get tossed in jail for a tall tale on your resume, are you?

Well, if you fabricate federal work experience you might. Fox News guest commentator Wayne Simmons found that out the hard way when he was arrested last week for lying about his work for the Central Intelligence Agency. It turns out there are some other resume lies that could get you jail time.

Federal Fraud

Simmons claimed to have been an "outside paramilitary special operations officer" for the CIA from 1973 to 2000. Not only did he use that claim to get guest appearances on Fox News, but the government claims he used it to gain security clearances and a defense contractor gig that included advising senior military personnel overseas. He's now being charged with wire fraud, major fraud against the United States, and making false statements to the government and could face 35 years in prison.

The federal government really doesn't like it when you lie to them, whether on a resume or during a criminal investigation. And when any "false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation" can get you five years in prison, it's not worth lying about.

State Statutes on Storytelling

All states have criminal statutes against fraud, and some states, like Washington, have statutes that make using a fake degree a felony. And if you're faking documents as part of your resume lies, you could also be charged with forgery.

Aside from incarceration, lying on a resume or job application could forfeit your legal rights down the road. Under a legal theory known as "after-acquired evidence," you could be barred from suing your employer if you obtained your job by lying on your resume. So even if your employer does something illegal, you would have no legal recourse if you lied to get the job.

In this job market, you may want any advantage you can get. But lying on your resume may have you needing an experienced employment attorney instead.

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