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August 11, 2009

 

DiNapoli: Prisoners Cheat System, Collect $30,000 in
Unemployment Benefits While in Jail

Another $18,000 in Payments Stopped by DiNapoli’s Office

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Eleven prisoners inappropriately collected about $30,000 in Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. His office stopped another $18,000 in payments before they were made to these same individuals.

“Crime should not pay, but these prisoners figured out a way to game the system from inside a cell,” DiNapoli said. “Convicted criminals should not be collecting unemployment benefits when they are in jail. Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for this kind of outrageous scam. The Department of Labor and the Department of Corrections took immediate action when our audit findings were brought to their attention and are fully cooperating with us to ensure this does not happen again.”

In order for individuals to be eligible for UI benefits, they must be ready, willing and able to work in their usual employment or in another place of employment that matches their training and experience.

DiNapoli’s auditors examined payments made by the Department of Labor to individuals receiving UI benefits during June 2008 against files of the prison population maintained by the Department of Corrections. They identified 11 prisoners who inappropriately received UI benefits of nearly $30,000 while incarcerated in a state facility. These individuals are currently under investigation and specifics related to their individual cases cannot be released.

Auditors found another 14 prisoners who also may have received benefits while in jail. Of these 14 prisoners:

  • One was incarcerated under another person’s name, social security number and date of birth. His case was referred to the Manhattan District Attorney for prosecution.
  • Four individuals did not respond to information inquires and all payments were stopped.
  • Nine of the remaining 13 were able to show proof that they were eligible for the benefits.

Auditors recommended the Department of Labor recover all inappropriate payments and assess penalties. They also recommended the Department of Labor and the Department of Corrections work together to determine how the prisoners were certified for UI benefits while incarcerated in a state facility, identify the four remaining individuals who collected benefits but did not respond to requests for information and share information in the future to prevent this from happening again.

In response to the audit, both state agencies agreed with the audit findings and pledged to work to make changes.

Click here for a copy of the audit.

About the State Comptroller’s Office Role in Examining State Payments
The State Comptroller’s office processes about 130,000 state payments daily. In State Fiscal Year 2008-09, it processed more than 34 million payments totaling approximately $103 billion. Using various fraud detection techniques, including computer filters designed to detect unusual bills or other red flags, DiNapoli’s office has ensured that tens of millions of dollars in inappropriate payments are recovered or not paid.

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