ALBANY, NEW YORK – Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon announced today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York has been allocated funding to hire a prosecutor, for a one-year term, who will focus on cases involving fraudulent schemes to unlawfully obtain unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, and related offenses.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 allocated $270 billion for supplemental federal UI benefits. Additionally, President Trump directed that $44 billion in federal Disaster Relief Funds be used to provide supplemental UI benefits to eligible claimants. The substantial increase in funding for UI benefits spurred a dramatic spike in UI fraud across the country, resulting in the theft of federal funds intended to help those struggling with unemployment during the current pandemic and economic crisis.
Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon stated: “We are grateful for the creation of this additional Assistant U.S. Attorney position, which will add to our existing efforts to prosecute, prevent and deter the torrent of unemployment insurance fraud that we have seen since the pandemic started. These investigations are complex – in some instances, involving thousands of unemployment claims filed in the names of people whose identities have been stolen – and often involve organized fraud rings based overseas. The Department of Justice, along with its federal and state partners, is aggressively pursuing these pernicious frauds that target programs created for people struggling with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Department of Justice, in close coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal agencies, created the U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force. This task force is charged with investigating numerous CARES Act fraud schemes targeting the unemployment insurance programs of state workforce agencies and will work closely with United States Attorney’s’ offices to prosecute those individuals who have fraudulently diverted these funds from those struggling with unemployment.
The Department encourages the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline by phone (1-866-720-5721) or via an online reporting form available at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form