Out-of-country vacationers and internet scammers overseas were in for a big surprise when the unemployment checks they commandeered from the state of New York were been discovered via a technological investigation. $90,000 in unemployment checks that were mailed out in June and July to foreign addresses were found and stopped, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, all part of a larger investigation totaling over $2 million.
The New York Department of Labor made similar discoveries using the same type of computer-based sleuthing that the Comptroller’s office employed. Software was adjusted to find online recertification claims made through foreign IP addresses, indicating payments scheduled to be sent to vacationing New York citizens and illegitimate, non-New York foreigners, alike. The process of capturing checks yet-uncashed and seizing bank deposits of these illegal funds abroad has now begun.
DiNapoli is unsure, now, as to how long these improper benefits have been paid out before June of this year. The problem may be quite widespread, according to the Comptroller, but the extent of it all is yet undetermined. The maximum weekly payout for unemployment benefits in New York is $405.
It seems logical, but apparently was overlooked that in order to receive unemployment benefits in New York the recipient needs to be ready to work at any time. Vacationers on non-American soil are not ready to work if they’re physically out of the state. These recipients may have legitimately been terminated or laid off, and entitled to benefits while residing – and staying – within the Empire State, but to leave the country indicates an unwillingness to be able to accept future employment offers which is a necessary component to being granted such payments.
The locales where the foreign bank accounts and debit cards are located are far-reaching, including: France, Ireland, England, Finland, Jamaica, Greece, Israel, Germany and the Dominican Republic.
DiNapoli’s $90,000 discovery is part of a larger, $1.4 million unemployment bust that his office orchestrated which discovered and stopped illegal unemployment claims paid out to working people, illegal immigrants and deceased individuals (cashed by others). An additional $1 million was paid out in June and July before the audit caught the errors.
Some of those who improperly received benefits are recently hired state workers, 91 to be exact, who owe New York $105,000 for overpayment of unemployment funds.
While not as widespread, in 2009 an audit by the Comptroller’s office uncovered 11 inmates who not only filed for, but received unemployment benefits. According to the Comptroller about $30,000 was paid out to the jailed recipients over an ongoing period of at least seven weeks, probably longer. This investigation also found 14 other inmates who may have received illegal benefits while incarcerated.
New York has a privately funded unemployment system, via worker wage contributions. In 2009, after recession-based economic troubles pushed the system into the red, New York, and many other states looked to the federal government for loans that would be used to pay mounting unemployment claims. Recently the state issued its second-annual bill to employers for interest payments tied to these federal loans. A gaffe like this not only comes as New York struggles to move forward, but as businesses stress over being able to afford these debts to the state.
Author: Stacia Argoudelis
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Tags: benefits, labor department, unemployment