Arizona Cracks Down on Unemployment Fraudsters in Prison

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Here’s the thing about incarcerated criminals? they have a lot of time on their hands. And some prisoners focus their energies on fraud, rather than rehabilitation. Here at ”Fraud of the Day,” we’ve written about cases in which prisoners have developed tax refund schemes (always a favorite) from behind bars and even an instance in which a prisoner stole data that was later used to perpetrate student loan fraud (definitely check this one out). Today’s fraud from Tusconweekly.com highlights unemployment fraud by prisoners in Arizona and the state’s efforts to combat it.

Arizona is taking proactive steps to unearth unemployment fraud in its system. The article reports that the Department of Economic Security (DES), the agency that oversees unemployment compensation for the state, began ”cross-matching lists of [prisoners’] beneficiaries and people incarcerated with the state Department of Corrections” in February to identify fraud. Now, DES is going after the fraudsters to recoup ”$1.1 million in overpayments from January 2010 to January 2012.” And DES is leaving no stone unturned. The agency also is checking its benefit recipient lists against those in county jails.

The state is taking a hard look at its own data to find fraud. It isn’t easy to find fraud in a program, but you can’t prevent it if you don’t know where it exists and how it is being perpetrated. The lesson is instructive for all states? keep an eye on your prisoners – they may be taking their forced unemployment a bit too seriously and trying to collect benefits.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, ”Arizona Unemployment Benefits Going to the Incarcerated,” written by Kellie Mejdrich and published by Tucsonweekly.com on March 8, 2012.

Over the past two years, 475 Arizona prisoners collected $1.1 million in unemployment benefits while sitting in their cells.

On Feb. 8, the state Department of Economic Security found the 475 individuals by cross-matching lists of their beneficiaries and people incarcerated with the state Department of Corrections, said Tasya Peterson, communications director with DES.

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