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Federal watchdog admits $45.6bn in pandemic benefits was stolen


From WWW.DAILYMAIL.CO.UK

Fraudsters stole nearly $46billion in unlawful unemployment claims during the pandemic, the Labor Department concluded on Thursday – while warning that the actual figure may be even higher.

Criminals used inventive measures to access the COVID benefits, with more than 205,000 Social Security numbers that belonged to dead people being used to claim the cash.

Some schemes saw the Social Security numbers of prisoners being used, despite them being ineligible for the unemployment benefits.

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The latest figure is more than double the earlier estimate, issued by the Labor Department last year, when they concluded that $16 billion had been stolen.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat representing Oregon who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the new report proved the urgency of improving security checks on unemployment benefits.

‘I’ve long said we need a national set of technology and security standards for state systems to better prevent this kind of fraud, and we’re going to keep working to get our reforms passed,’ he said.

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The Labor Department inspector general said 190,000 investigations have been opened into fraud since the pandemic began.

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Separately, the Justice Department on Thursday said that 1,000 people have now been charged with COVID-related fraud.

Those charged include a 61-year-old Massachusetts woman, who filed 25 unemployment claims for people who were not even living in the state.

Audri Ford-Victory, from Springfield, swindled $215,246 from the system, with the money going to people who were not eligible.

‘Ford-Victory received kickback payments in exchange for submitting the fraudulent claims,’ prosecutors in Boston said.

She pleaded guilty in January this year to one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and was sentenced to six months of house arrest and three years of probation.

A New York man who stole $131,560 was sentenced to six years and 10 months behind bars in July…. (Read more)

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