NY Crackdown on Inmates Collecting Unemployment
By Dave Lucas
Albany, NY – An investigation has revealed that while New York struggled with the recession, inmates in state prisons were stealing money earmarked for the unemployed. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports how they got caught and what's being done to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Thanks in part to an audit conducted last year by the Office of the State Comptroller, the Labor Department discovered inmates were collecting Unemployment Insurance benefits while behind bars. Officials then went partnered with the State Department of Correctional Services to check state prison records more often and stop state prisoners from collecting benefits while serving their time. State Labor Commissioner Colleen Gardner says that Since January 2010, authorities found 126 prisoners who had committed U.I. fraud, amounting to $465,000 in stolen benefits, and work goes on everyday to recoup that money.
According to Gardner, 60 per cent of New York's counties are now sharing data, with the rest looking to do do as soon as possible. Exactly how much money has been paid out to inmates? Gardner says that the fraud likely began when the unemployed were allowed to file and maintain claims by computer - By year's end, $3 million in fraudulent UI payments will be stopped. There are four cases pending prosecution and more than 250 investigations in progress. Inmates were helped by friends and relatives on the outside who performed routine certifications for benefits online. Suffolk County had the most cases of U.I. fraud: followed by Onondaga, Albany, Orange and Westchester Counties. Gardner says U.I. recipients are now required to check in personally at One-Stop centers.
Anyone with information about UI fraud can call the Department of Labor's toll-free fraud hotline to make an anonymous report at (888) 598-2077.
For more information about the Labor Department's fight against UI fraud, visit www.labor.ny.gov.