Business, Crime

Maryland Department of Labor uncovers massive criminal fraud scheme

BALTIMORE, MD—The State of Maryland has uncovered a massive and sophisticated criminal enterprise involving more than 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims in Maryland and totaling over $501 million.

The Maryland Department of Labor (Labor) is coordinating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG) to investigate and prosecute individuals.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our department has balanced the goal of quickly paying unemployment insurance benefits to eligible claimants with the need to maintain program integrity due to the prevalence of fraudulent activity occurring in other states,” said Labor Secretary Tiffany P. Robinson. “With heightened security measures in place, our department quickly detected, reported, and blocked this fraudulent claim activity, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. We will continue to work with our state and federal partners to prevent fraudsters from capitalizing upon the hardships caused by the coronavirus during these already difficult and uncertain times.”

U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur stated, “My office and the entire law enforcement community are committed to bringing to justice fraudsters who are preying on citizens during this unprecedented public health crisis by using their stolen personal information to fraudulently attempt to obtain unemployment benefits. We are grateful for our partnership with the State of Maryland in stopping unemployment fraud and believe that this joint federal-state partnership will continue to bear fruit. We will continue to work together to prevent this abuse as well as continue our outreach efforts to make the public aware of COVID-19 scams and frauds. I urge citizens to remain vigilant and to report suspicious activity or fraudulent use of their personal information.”

“Today’s announcement results from our strong partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the State of Maryland, and demonstrates our joint commitment to combating fraud in the Unemployment Insurance program. The OIG will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and state workforce agency partners to aggressively pursue criminals who choose to enrich themselves without regard for taxpayers and individuals who truly need assistance,” said Derek Pickle, Special Agent-in-Charge, Washington Region, DOL-OIG.

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With the increase in new unemployment insurance filed claims over the past several months due to COVID-19, and the additional programs offered by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), states across the country are seeing an increase in reports of unemployment claims being fraudulently filed by imposters using stolen personally identifiable information.

Anyone who believes their information has been used to fraudulently file an unemployment insurance claim should contact the Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance by emailing ui.fraud@maryland.gov. Suspected unemployment insurance fraud should also be reported to the DOL-OIG Hotline by calling 1-800-347-3756.

If you think someone is using your personal information to open accounts, file taxes or make purchases, visit https://www.identitytheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft. For more information about COVID-19 fraud, visit the Justice Department’s website at https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

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