Maryland uncovers 47,000 fraudulent unemployment claims totaling more than $501 million
good afternoon. Thank you all for being here. Joining me are Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson and Special Agent Derek Pickle from the U. S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General. We’re here to announce that the state of Maryland has uncovered a massive, sophisticated criminal enterprise involving widespread identity theft and coordinated fraudulent unemployment insurance claims in Maryland involving more than 47,500 fraudulent claims and totalling over 501 $1,000,000. The state of Maryland. Exposing this illegal scheme and notifying the federal authorities, has helped shed light on a related fraudulent criminal activities and at least a dozen other states. I want to congratulate Secretary Robinson and her team at the Maryland Department of Labor for their incredible efforts. After detecting an unusual increase in out of state federal pandemic unemployment assistance claims, the Maryland Department of Labor discovered he’s more than 47,500 fraudulent claims which were involving massive identity theft, attempting to utilize stolen identities and the personal information of innocent and unsuspecting individuals, which was apparently acquired from previous a national data breaches. Our Maryland Department of Labor immediately notified our federal partners, including Maryland U. S Attorney Robert Her, as well as the office of the Inspector general at the U. S. Department of Labor. And we have been coordinating with them on this ongoing investigation. Yesterday I spoke with U. S attorney her, who praised Maryland’s decisive actions thanks to our the efforts of our Labor Department. Not only did we identify the fraudulent activity here in Maryland and save the taxpayers 1/2 1,000,000,000 dollars, we also helped federal authorities uncover related illegal activity in states across the country. I want to praise the Maryland Department of Labor, the Office of Inspector General and the U. S attorney for their work. And I also want to assure the people of Maryland that the State of Maryland Department of Labor has not been has not experienced any breach of our unemployment insurance information system on Maryland claimants. Personal information has not been compromised in any way. Maryland was the first state in the nation to establish a comprehensive website with the capabilities of processing unemployment benefits for both regular unemployment claims and the Cares Act. Unemployment programs at comprehensive website at the Maryland Department of Labor has helped us ah successfully process over $4.3 billion in federal unemployment insurance benefit payments to more than 489,000 Marylanders who desperately needed that assistance over the past few months. In the great recession of 2008 it took 18 months to reach that number of claims. Here in Maryland, which now the department has had to handle in just the past few months, it is equal to the total number of claims in the previous three years. In Maryland. Added Together, Department has successfully processed 96.4% of all the claims in Maryland and the percentage of cases that they’re still working hard to help people resolve is, uh down to three 0.6% which is in fact even lower than normal pre pandemic processing levels. But we’re in committed to ensuring that all unemployed Marylanders get the help that they need and that they receive every single penny that they’re entitled to. Some had suggested that we compromised the integrity of these federal programs and that we just pay out benefits regardless of whether it is a legal claim or whether or not ah and individual is eligible, that would have violated state and federal law, and it would exploit innocent taxpayers. This criminal enterprise, seeking to take advantage of ah, a global pandemic to steal hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars from taxpayers is despicable. And we will continue to work with both the U. S attorney and the U. S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General on this ongoing investigation, both here in Maryland and in other states across the country to do whatever it takes to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Detecting and stopping this fraud ensures that money remains available in these funds for the tens of millions of deserving people all across America who actually need the help. And I can assure you that nothing is going to stop us from continuing to help struggling Marylanders get the assistance that they need during this crisis. This time I’d like Teoh turn it over to Secretary Tiffany Robinson from the Maryland Department of Labor to discuss her team’s efforts to identify and stop this fraud and how our innovative Maryland labor website allowed us to uncover this massive criminal fraud scheme. Secretary. Good afternoon. Thank you governor for your leaders have been for your support through this investigation. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our federal partners have consistently and strongly warned unemployment insurance programs about the prevalence of fraudulent and criminal activity. As states across the country continue to experience unprecedented volume of claims, fraudsters are capitalizing upon the hardships created by the pandemic and are targeting unemployment insurance programs due to the additional benefits offered by the Cares Act. The P Way program in particular, allows individuals to self certify that they’re unemployed due to the Corona virus, eliminating the employer check and balance that exists under the regular state you I program and increasing the potential for fraud. In fact, a recent spike in criminal activity led the FBI to issue a national warning about fraud in the unemployment insurance system. While quickly paying unemployment. Bennett benefits to eligible claimants has been of the highest priority. We have also been committed to maintaining program integrity to ensure that both taxpayers and claimants are protected during these already difficult and uncertain times. Knowing that fraud was a really and ever increasing threat, our department’s employees remained vigilant, and when our division of unemployment insurance recently detected an unusual increase in out of state P U A claims. We were prepared with a secure website and heightened security measures in place. Our department quickly detected, reported and blocks payment to over 47,500 fraudulently filed out of state claims. The immediate actions taken saved taxpayers over $501 million the most significant unemployment cost savings in the country announced since the beginning of the pandemic. I’m so proud of my team for working around the clock to allow our department to emerge as the victor rather than the victim of fraud. Our hearts will continue to coordinate with the U. S. Attorney’s office and the U. S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General to investigate and prosecute the criminals taking advantage of the P Way program by filing fraudulent claims using stolen personal identities. While U. S attorney Robert Her could not be here with us today, he stated, My office and the entire law enforcement community are committed to bringing justice to fraudsters who are preying on citizens during this unprecedented public health crisis by using their stolen personal information to fraudulently attempts to obtain unemployment benefits. We are grateful for our partnership with the state of Maryland and 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 covert 19 scams and frauds. I urge citizens to remain vigilant and to report suspicious, suspicious activity or fraudulent use of their personal information. I’m grateful for that statement by U. S attorney her, and we also appreciate our strong partnerships with the US Attorney’s Office, the Office of Inspector General and our vendor Bank of America. I want to be very clear that the Maryland Department of Labor has not experienced a breach of our unemployment insurance system and claimants. Personal information has not been compromised in any way. We have already taken a series of actions to even further enhance security, and we will continue to closely monitor our unemployment insurance system out of an abundance of caution to prevent any further fraud from occurring. If any Marylander believes that their information has been used to fraudulently file and under pullup unemployment insurance claim they should contact our department’s division of unemployment insurance by emailing you. I got fraud at Maryland dot gov or visiting MD unemployment dot com. Since the beginning of the pandemic, like every state, our department has faced a series of challenges. As the governor mentioned, we have received more claims in just the last few months. Then we received. In the past three years, we created a brand new online application in a matter of weeks to administer three New Cares Act unemployment programs while navigating the ever changing federal guidance directives. Our department has overcome these challenges and made significant progress in the processing and payment of claims paying over $4.3 billion in benefits to claimants. And in the midst of it all, our teams successfully blocked payment to over half a $1,000,000,000 in fraudulent claims. We remain committed to helping Marylanders through this pandemic, which means ensuring that all eligible claimants get the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible, while also protecting the integrity of our system and your taxpayer dollars. We will continue to build upon this positive progress and will not stop until each and every customer has been served and Now, I would like to introduce Special agent in charge Derek Pickle from the U. S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, who has been working alongside our department as we fight fraud. Thank you. Good afternoon. Thank you, Governor Hogan and Secretary Robinson for inviting me to be here with you today. My name is Derrick Pickle on a special agent in charge of the Washington D. C. Region for the U. S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General. The Office of Inspector General is the law enforcement agency primarily responsible for investigating fraud in the unemployment insurance program. And we take great pride in working with our law enforcement and state workforce agency partners to accomplish that part of our mission. Since the pandemic began, we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of unemployment insurance fraud occurring throughout the nation. To give you a sense of how that spike corresponds to our work, unemployment insurance fraud investigations have historically made up approximately 10% of our agencies investigative workload. Today, more than 50% of our investigative matters pertained unemployment insurance, and that number continues to grow by the day, and that includes investigating matters in all 50 states. Over the last many months, the Office of Inspector General has prioritized working with our state and federal partners to combat fraud being perpetrated against unemployment insurance program. A major focus of that work has involved the collection and analysis of unemployment claims data in order to identify fraud indicators and move proactively to address fraud and prevent the loss of taxpayer funds to criminals who seek to exploit the system for personal profit. Today’s announcement demonstrates the strength of our partnership with the state of Maryland, the U. S attorney’s office, and offers an example of the kind of result made possible through our shared commitment to safeguarding taxpayer funds and ensuring the integrity of the unemployment insurance program. In closing, I personally wanted to commend Secretary Robinson and her team the diligence exhibited by your personnel and identifying this fraud. Bringing to our attention was outstanding, and we look forward to our continued accomplishments through that partnership. Thank you. Well, I want to thank thank you Special Agent Pickle very much for joining us here today. And again, I want to thank the U. S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General very much. I want to thank the U. S. Attorney and our entire team at the Department of Labor processing that the sudden and unprecedented increase unemployment claims well, following complex federal regulations. Um, and guarding against fraud is certainly not an issue unique to the state of Maryland. The federal government and every state in America has has had to overcome challenges to handle this recent overwhelming caseload. Over the past few months, America has seen an unprecedented economic collapse never before seen in our lifetime, and Marylanders have not been immune this national economic collapse here in Maryland, however, we were able to keep more than 70% of our state economy open throughout this entire crisis without shutting down on then with are safe, effective and gradual roadmap to recovery. 62 days ago, we were able to lift are stay at home order in Maryland, and 41 days ago we moved into Stage two of the recovery plan. Maryland is open for business with 98% of our economy open and able to operate in a safe way. Because of these decisions and actions, our unemployment rate, while obviously considerably higher than it was before the pandemic is much lower in the national rape far better than most of the states in America, and is the very best among all the states in our region. On Monday I lead my 44th call with my fellow governors in just the past few months was our 29th goal with either the president and or vice president. Yesterday, we also convened the 20th meeting of our Corona Virus recovery team of leading public health experts, doctors, scientists and business and labor leaders. And we held another emergency meeting of my entire Cabinet. As we continue to navigate through both the health and economic crisis are key. Health metrics in Maryland continue to remain low and stable. Our daily positivity rate dropped again today to 4.26% and our seven day positivity rate dropped again today to 4.49% which is a more than 83% decrease since its peak 90 days ago on April 17 when we were at 26.91%. We did see a slight uptick in covert hospitalizations today, but they are still down 73% from their peak 77 days ago on April 30th. However, we are concerned that 40 states across America are experiencing spikes and increasing numbers, including states just across our borders, and we’re watching a few concerning trends in our state. The positivity rate among Marylanders under the age of 35 is now 83% higher than Marylanders, who are 35 older, and an increasing number of covert 19 cases have been connected to non compliance with public health requirements, particularly in bars and restaurants. Yesterday I sent a letter to county leaders urging them to enforce public health requirements in bars and restaurants across the state, reminding them that it was the responsibility of their local health departments, local liquor boards and inspectors and local law enforcement agencies to work together to actively and aggressively enforce these critical public health measures. Young people should avoid crowded bars, house parties and large gatherings of any kind. You are not on Lee putting yourselves at risk. You’re also risking the lives of your parents, your grand parents and other vulnerable people in the community. Any Maryland who Marylander who has been engaged in any type of risky behavior should immediately get tested for Covert 19. We’re also advising that Marylanders refrained from traveling two areas that are experiencing rapidly escalating numbers. Any Marylander who has traveled to or is returning from travel out of state, especially from those states that are experiencing spiking numbers should immediately get tested. I want to remind Marylanders that while our health metrics are continuing to slightly decline or plateau, this battle is not behind us. Not by a long shot. Only you can stop the spread of this virus. All Marylanders are still safer at home, but particularly older and more vulnerable populations. Low risk does not mean no risk. Outside activity is still much safer than inside activity. Employers should continue to encourage tele work for their employees when possible, and individuals who can work from home should continue to do so. Marylanders should not use public transportation unless it’s absolutely necessary. Everyone should continue wearing masks in public areas, businesses and on public transportation. Marylander should continue practice practicing physical distancing stinks six feet apart whenever possible and should continue a boarding all large gatherings. Our economy is open, recovering and doing better than many other states, but only you can keep Maryland open for business by continuing to follow the public health guidance, while other states are beginning to experienced serious testing shortages here in Maryland, we do not have that problem. Back at the end of April, we laid out a long term testing strategy. Last month, the signature state lab we built at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, became fully operational. Uh, so we’re now able to handle our own large scale testing. And unlike many other states, most other states, we have a substantial strategic stockpile of covert 19 test kits that will keep us in good shape all the way through the fall as the normal flu season begins and as the demand for covert tests increases. Finally, today, I want Teoh address a major issue that is on everyone’s minds what action the State Board of Education will take regarding our schools. We all want our Children to get back to school as soon as possible, but only if and when we can do it in a way that keeps our students and our teachers safe. Last month, Dr Karen Salmon, the state superintendent of schools and the Maryland State Department of Education, put out Maryland together. Maryland’s recovery plan for education. Since that time, they have been meeting with county boards of education, local school superintendents, teachers, parents and key stakeholders to collaborate on and develop detailed safe, an effective recovery plans for all our Maryland public schools. A few counties have already begun submitting their proposed plans. Other local jurisdictions are continuing to work to finalize there’s in order to meet the August 14 deadline. Once all of that input is received, the state Department of Education will institute protocols that follow CDC guidance and take into account the input of public health experts and which provide for flexibility for our local school systems. We cannot and should not rush. This decision is absolutely critical that we get it right for our communities and for each and every one of our Children and our teachers. Dr. Karen Salmon, the state superintendent of schools, will join us for a press conference next week in order to update us on the progress the state Department of Education is making and on the state’s education skied since in closing today. Um, let me just say that this crisis has tested all of us and nearly every way imaginable. But with the help of Marylanders coming together, we have been leading in the fight against this deadly pandemic by flattening the curve by reopening our economy safely. And today, by detecting criminals, we’re trying to exploit innocent people for their own game. Don’t gain from the beginning, we have all been in this together. And although this is far from over and it will not be easy, we will get through this together. And, uh, Maryland will come out of this stronger and better than ever before.
Maryland uncovers 47,000 fraudulent unemployment claims totaling more than $501 million
Maryland has uncovered a massive criminal enterprise involving over 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims totaling more than $501 million, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday. State officials exposed the scheme and notified federal authorities, which shed light on related fraudulent criminal activity in as many as 12 other states.”Processing the sudden and unprecedented increase in unemployment claims while following complex federal regulations and guarding against fraud is certainly not an issue unique to the state of Maryland,” Hogan said. “It is obviously a coordinated criminal enterprise.”After detecting an unusual increase in out-of-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, the Maryland Department of Labor discovered more than 47,500 fraudulent claims using stolen identities and personal information acquired from previous national data breaches.The DOL notified the Maryland U.S. Attorney as well as the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General and has been coordinating with them on this ongoing investigation.”Since the pandemic began, we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of unemployment insurance fraud claims across the nation,” said Special Agent Derek Pickle, with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor.The Maryland DOL has not experienced any breach of the state’s unemployment insurance system, and Maryland claimants’ personal information has not been compromised in any way.The DOL has processed more than $4.3 billion in federal unemployment insurance benefits payments to more than 489,000 Marylanders. The DOL has processed 96.4% of all claims and their backlog is down to just 3.6%.”I can assure you that nothing is going to stop us from continuing to help struggling Marylanders get the assistance that they need during this crisis,” Hogan said. The governor said the Maryland Department of Labor is reporting the following:Over $4.3 billion in the coronavirus aid bill and regular unemployment insurance benefits payments have been paid out.96.4% of all claims have been successfully processed.The proportion of pending cases (3.6%) is below pre-pandemic levels.
Maryland has uncovered a massive criminal enterprise involving over 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims totaling more than $501 million, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday.
State officials exposed the scheme and notified federal authorities, which shed light on related fraudulent criminal activity in as many as 12 other states.
“Processing the sudden and unprecedented increase in unemployment claims while following complex federal regulations and guarding against fraud is certainly not an issue unique to the state of Maryland,” Hogan said. “It is obviously a coordinated criminal enterprise.”
After detecting an unusual increase in out-of-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, the Maryland Department of Labor discovered more than 47,500 fraudulent claims using stolen identities and personal information acquired from previous national data breaches.
The DOL notified the Maryland U.S. Attorney as well as the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General and has been coordinating with them on this ongoing investigation.
“Since the pandemic began, we have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of unemployment insurance fraud claims across the nation,” said Special Agent Derek Pickle, with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Maryland DOL has not experienced any breach of the state’s unemployment insurance system, and Maryland claimants’ personal information has not been compromised in any way.
The DOL has processed more than $4.3 billion in federal unemployment insurance benefits payments to more than 489,000 Marylanders. The DOL has processed 96.4% of all claims and their backlog is down to just 3.6%.
“I can assure you that nothing is going to stop us from continuing to help struggling Marylanders get the assistance that they need during this crisis,” Hogan said.
The governor said the Maryland Department of Labor is reporting the following:
- Over $4.3 billion in the coronavirus aid bill and regular unemployment insurance benefits payments have been paid out.
- 96.4% of all claims have been successfully processed.
- The proportion of pending cases (3.6%) is below pre-pandemic levels.