The Illinois Department of Employment Security on Wednesday announced it had compiled data indicating more than 1,100 people have fraudulently collected nearly $2 million in unemployment benefits while in county jails or state prisons, with some claims dating back as far as 2010. To uncover the bogus payments, the agency cross-matched names of individuals collecting unemployment insurance benefits with inmate lists from Illinois' county jails and state prisons.
According to IDES Director Jay Rowell:
"The inmate cross-matching initiative is another important step in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. Money that funds the unemployment insurance program comes from businesses. Stopping fraud helps our businesses reduce costs, which leads to new hires and a stronger economy."
The report includes the stunning breakdown of wrongful payments from just Cook County and collar counties:
- Cook County: 296 inmates collected $722,689
- Will County: 21 inmates collected $85,159
- Lake County: 20 inmates collected $84,533
The report states the largest single wrongfully collected amount was nearly "$43,000 on behalf of one individual in the Cook County Jail." According to the Chicago Tribune, most inmates started collecting benefits from 2012, but some claims were linked to 2011, with two starting in 2010.
The individuals could face criminal charges and must repay the nearly $2 million in unemployment insurance benefits; to recoup the funds, the department will "garnish federal and state tax returns if necessary." IDES says integrity initiatives have saved taxpayers $120 million in the past year.
The findings conclude a three-month study the department began in July, when the investigation began after State Rep. John Cavaletto raised concerns about potential fraud at the Marion County Jail.
Also on HuffPost:
More than<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/millionaires-unemployment-benefits_n_1931837.html"> 2,000 millionaires took home unemployment</a> benefits in 2009, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. That comes to a total of $20.8 million.
Prisoners in a variety of states may be improperly receiving unemployment benefits while serving time. An investigation by Illinois officials in July turned up <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-11/news/ct-met-inmate-unemployment-20120712_1_unemployment-benefits-greg-rivara-inmates">at least 420 inmates</a> taking home unemployment benefits, according to the <em>Chicago Tribune</em>. In Arizona, the state improperly paid prisoners more than<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/19/arizona-collects-on-improper-payments-to-prisoners/"> $1.1 million in unemployment benefits</a> over a two-year period, according to Fox News. In one case a convicted killer managed to <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=8568004">collect $30,000 in unemployment benefits</a> between 2008 and 2010, the Los Angeles ABC affiliate reports.
Among the people improperly receiving unemployment benefits in New York state are those <a href="http://www.wwnytv.com/news/local/Dead-People-Receive-Unemployment-Checks-164616016.html">who aren't even alive</a>, according to the Associated Press. The state's comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said he's stopped more than $1 million in improper benefits to the dead, undocumented immigrants and working people.
In Maryland, one state worker making $9,700 <a href="http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-10-02/news/bs-bz-audit-unemployed-workers-20121002_1_unemployment-benefits-overpayments-auditors">took home $5,800 in unemployment benefits</a> at the same time, according the <em>Baltimore Sun</em>.
Fired Prison Workers
The California Corrections Agency <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/31/local/me-prisons31">wrongly paid prison workers</a> that they fired for misconduct $1.3 million in unemployment benefits over two years, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> reports. Recipients included a prison guard fired after being arrested in a drunken hit-and-run incident and a prison guard involved in a narcotics transaction.
People With Jobs
It may come as no surprise that one of the requirements of receiving unemployment benefits is being unemployed, but in Illinois at least <a href="http://www.pjstar.com/news/x1681146451/Illinois-cracking-down-on-unemployment-fraud">12,000 people wrongly collected</a> unemployment benefits while working, according to the <em>Peoria Journal-Star</em>.
Retired Public Workers
In Massachusetts <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/us-seeks-recoup-billions-unemployment-benefits-paid-error/story?id=15921922&page=2#.UGyUF_mfHll">retired public workers collecting</a> benefits became such a problem that local leaders pushed for statewide reform on the issue, according to ABC News. These retirees were receiving public pensions at the same time.