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Cracking down on inmates filing for unemployment

The state Department of Labor and the New York State Sheriffs’ Association plan to slam the door shut on unemployment insurance fraud in jails.

Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner announced Tuesday that the sheriffs’ association has started providing all inmate data from 57 county correctional facilities which Labor Department fraud investigators will compare their records to make sure prisoners do not collect benefits while in jail.

Last year, thanks in part to an audit by the Office of the State Comptroller, the Labor Department became aware that inmates were collecting UI benefits and began to work with the State Department of Correctional Services to check state prison records more often and stop the scam.

Gardner reports 126 prisoners committed UI fraud since January, amounting to $465,000 in stolen benefits. The department’s Office of Special Investigations then sought help from the sheriffs’ association worked closely with local jails to validate the data and make it compatible with the department’s computer systems.

As of Monday, the new cross-match between DoL and the counties has garnered the following results:

  • 84 Incarcerated claimants caught receiving illegal UI payments.
  • 251 prisoner payments placed on hold for further investigation.
  • $178,000 in fraudulent payments identified.
  • $750,000 payments stopped since April 2010.
  • 284 cases under criminal investigation by the Department.
  • Four cases referred to district attorney offices for prosecution.

By year’s end, $3 million in UI payments will be stopped. The partners expect to save $10 to $15 million a year for those who deserve the benefits.

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 fight against UI fraud, visit www.labor.ny.gov.