Those of you who read my commentary on a regular basis know that the goal is to highlight how fraud is perpetrated, so that those of you in government who work on the front lines fighting it every day will be able to recognize a new tactic or type of fraud that occurred in one jurisdiction and prevent it from happening in yours. As you can imagine, I read a lot of articles that cause me to scratch my head or yell in frustration. But, sometimes an article comes along that gives me a little hope and brings a smile to my face. And, that’s the case with today’s Fraud of the Day from TheIndyChannel.com, which focuses on a partnership between the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The goal of the partnership: to stop unemployment fraud. (Now, that’s what I’m talking about!)
According to the article, the new initiative allocates a full-time deputy prosecutor to proactively seek out unemployment fraudsters. (Proactively seeking out fraud…what a concept!) Last year, unemployment fraud cost Indiana $13 million, but this year the state is already off to a good start – they have already charged four people with attempting over $116,000 in unemployment benefits.
So, how do they plan to take their fight to fraudsters? The article notes: “They’ll also employ grand jury investigators, use subpoena powers and enlist the help of state police to go across county lines to find and prosecute those who cheat the system.” (Anyone have handkerchief? I’m teary-eyed just thinking about it.) Once a fraudster is successfully prosecuted and found guilty of unemployment fraud, he/she will be required to pay back the stolen funds and face fines. (What? No jail time? This was such a great story up ‘til now.) The fines will be used to defray the cost of other state programs.
All too often, fraudsters see how hard it is for agencies to communicate and share information, so they find the bureaucracy of government to be one of the greatest tools in perpetrating fraud. Here, the opposite is true: two agencies have mobilized their resources with the singular goal of stopping the unemployment fraudster. This is a best practice that more states should emulate in fighting unemployment fraud – and other types of government benefits fraud, as well.