A collaboration between the state Department of Labor and the Division of Criminal Justice has yielded its 100th arrest as investigators work to recoup more than $3 million in stolen unemployment benefits.
Those arrested have faced charges including larceny, unemployment fraud and, in some cases, identity theft.
The program returned $800,000 to the state coffers since it began two years ago, according to a press release. Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane said those who don’t pay up may face more charges and maybe even prison.
“We are dealing with the intentional theft of tax dollars that have been allocated to benefit those in need. This is not about someone making a mistake,” Kane said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the the so-called “Chasing Cheaters” unemployment fraud prosecution program represents a commitment to utilizing new technology to identify, investigate, and prosecute fraud cases — and it saves money.
“Obviously when people commit crimes against the state, it should be understood that we’re going to come after you,” Malloy said.
The federally-funded Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit uses public tips, integrity software, and surveillance tools to build its cases.
Illegal maneuvers identified through the program run the gamut from collecting while working, to using another person’s social security number, to creating false employment records.
The arrests have been made in cities and towns all over the state. Press releases from the Division of Criminal Justice give more details about cases like that of an East Hartford man charged with first-degree larceny for collecting nearly $100,000 over an 11-year span using an invalid social security number. A man from Norwich was accused of taking in $24,151 over four years by under-reporting his wages from UPS. A West Haven woman was charged after she allegedly “grossly under-reported her earnings” and collected benefits to the tune of $19,183 while employed.
A 40-year-old man from West Hartford ran afoul of several state agencies and was sentenced to serve 21 months in prison for fraudulently collecting unemployment and food stamp benefits and billing Medicaid for home health care work he didn’t do. The unemployment allegations included collecting benefits while working and using someone else’s identification to collect even more benefits.
State Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer said these people are finding out the hard way that fraud won’t be tolerated. “These individuals refused to make restitution for what amounts to theft, which left us no alternative but to seek arrest warrants,” she said. “Unfortunately, their actions hurt employers, the taxpayers of Connecticut, and the state’s overall economic health.”
The unit is made up of two inspectors and a prosecutor who work with the state labor department to identify and investigate fraud and then obtain arrest warrants, according to the press release.