CHICAGO (CBS) -- For two years, we have been Working for Chicago - advocating for the thousands of you who have been victims of unemployment fraud here in Illinois.
Now, U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General Larry Turner says he believes as much as $163 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits may be linked to fraud.
"Instead of a thorough examination of an applicant's eligibility, many programs substituted this requirement with quicker self-reported information, which contributed to funds mistakenly being sent to deceased individuals; ineligible applicants, for fraudulent criminal schemes," U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters (D-Michigan) said at a hearing on the matter Thursday.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOL inspector general has received 143,000 unemployment fraud complaints. The IG has executed 450 search warrants and served 749 fraud-related indictments.
One recent DOL IG investigation resulted in charges against 11 members of the Brooklyn-based Woo Gang in a multimillion-dollar pandemic unemployment fraud scheme. In another, a onetime employee of the California Employment Development Department was sentenced to more than five years in prison for fraudulently obtaining nearly $4.3 million in pandemic relief funds.
The OIG report also included a picture showing the results of a search warrant for unemployment - $500,000 in cash, 30 unemployment insurance debit cards, and several notebooks with personally identifiable information, and an assortment of weapons.
We've been asking the State of Illinois for this information at the state level - and the Illinois Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly refused our requests and those from several state lawmakers.
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