Stealing government benefits seems to be a recurring theme among prisoners. With so many different types of assistance available, fraudsters think their little schemes can easily go unnoticed – that is until one of your cohorts starts cooperating with the police. Today’s Fraud of the Day from Government Security News tells the tale of an undocumented immigrant, who helped ineligible claimants receive unemployment assistance.
The article reports that a 34-year-old Chicago man, who was in the United States illegally, helped 57 ineligible claimants to obtain unemployment assistance from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) between 2006 and 2009. Since the claimants were ineligible to work in the United States, they were not able to receive unemployment assistance – and the defendant knew this right from the start. (Who cares if it’s against the law? I’m making money!) So, how did he do it? He used Social Security numbers that were incorrect, stolen, or made up in order to get them past the system. (Nobody will notice, right??) According to documentation, he accepted money from the 57 ineligible claimants in return for helping them to receive unemployment assistance. Of course, fraudsters often need help, and this case is no different. The defendant had a cohort submit the false applications to an IDES employee for processing. Then the accomplice began cooperating with the police, and that was the beginning of the end for the defendant.
In total, federal prosecutors estimated that the defendant stole $480,000 with this scheme – with $261,017 of that going straight into his bank accounts. (Not a bad business he ran there.) He was caught and arrested in June 2011, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and has remained in federal custody ever since. After completing his three-year prison sentence, he is subject to deportation and must pay $479,571 in restitution.
This case is another instance where identity plays a role in the fraud, as well as the solution to preventing it. The defendant used fake Social Security numbers to file unemployment claims for individuals who were ineligible to work, much less file claims for unemployment. The key to detecting the fraud is in authenticating and verifying the identity of the claimants prior to issuing the checks. So, the question for the day is: does your agency or department have identity-based filters in place to find identity fraud in potential claims for benefits?