Scammers have stolen more than $45 billion in illegitimate jobless claims during the pandemic, the Labor Department concluded on Thursday – while warning the real number could be even higher.
Criminals used inventive measures to access the COVID benefits, using more than 205,000 social security numbers belonging to dead people to collect the money.
Some systems used prisoners’ social security numbers even though they were not eligible for unemployment benefits.
The latest figure is more than double the earlier estimate released by the Labor Department last year, when it concluded $16 billion had been stolen.
Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat representing Oregon and chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the new report demonstrates the urgency of improving security checks on unemployment benefits.
“I have long said that we need a national set of technology and security standards for government systems to better prevent this type of fraud, and we will continue to work to get our reforms passed,” he said.
A woman walks past a shuttered store in Manhattan on June 2, 2020 amid the pandemic
Long lines wait for COVID tests in the Bronx on April 19, 2020
The Labor Department’s inspector general said 190,000 fraud investigations had been launched since the pandemic began.
Separately, the Justice Department said Thursday that 1,000 people have now been charged with COVID-related fraud.
Defendants include a 61-year-old Massachusetts woman who filed 25 jobless claims for people who didn’t even live in the state.
Springfield’s Audri Ford-Victory slammed $215,246 out of the system, with the money going to ineligible individuals.
“Ford-Victory received kickback payments in exchange for filing the fraudulent claims,” the Boston Attorney’s Office said.
She pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy in January this year and was sentenced to six months house arrest and three years probation.
Audri Ford-Victory, 61, of Springfield (center, wearing a green vest), filched $215,246 from the system, with the money going to ineligible people
A New York man who stole $131,560 was sentenced to six years and 10 months behind bars in July.
Hector J. Sanchez, a 30-year-old Bloods gang member from Rensselaer who has 11 criminal records, including three felonies, also cheated on a $12,500 loan for a nonexistent car wash business.
In court filings, federal prosecutors said that on Nov. 21, 2020, Sanchez posted a video to social media of his hands sorting large amounts of money, with the caption, “IF YOU DON’T HAVE A JOB FILE, COME WITH ME GET THIS BAG.” .’
Between September 2020 and November 2020, Sanchez filed for pandemic unemployment benefits under nine different identities.
A Texas woman, Donna Wasson, 37, of San Antonio, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in March this year.
She pleaded guilty in November and was ordered to pay $5,437 in restitution and forfeiture.
In January 2021, she wrote on Facebook: “Too stressed to see properly. These mobile banks can just take your money and tell you that you now have to wait 6 months to get what you worked so hard for. FML! If I did that, I would go to jail.”
One man replied, “Sounds like you’re going to jail!!”
Donna Wasson, 37, of San Antonio, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in March of this year
Larry Turner, the inspector general for the Labor Department, released his report on Thursday
Earlier this week, federal prosecutors indicted 47 defendants accused of stealing $250 million from a government aid program designed to feed needy children during the pandemic.
A Minnesota nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, has been accused of orchestrating the conspiracy.
Its founder, Aimee Bock, denied wrongdoing.
Larry Turner, the inspector general for the Labor Department, said in a statement that the huge sums of money that have poured into the economy to support unemployed Americans during the pandemic have overwhelmed the system and created opportunities for fraud.
“Hundreds of billions in pandemic funds attracted scammers looking to exploit the UI program – leading to historic levels of fraud and other improper payments,” he said.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11241391/Federal-watchdog-admits-45-6-BILLION-pandemic-unemployment-benefits-stolen-fraudsters.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Federal regulator admits scammers stole $45.6 BILLION in unemployment benefits