In two major investigation sweeps starting in July, the Maryland Department of Labor has flagged and investigated hundreds of thousands of potentially fraudulent unemployment claims filed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The first wave, over the summer, revealed over 40,000 false claims linked to what a news release called a “massive and sophisticated criminal enterprise.” Throughout the summer, enhanced security measures ensnared an additional wave of claims — close to 100,000 — that were suspicious.
Those claims continued to be worked on throughout the late summer and early fall, and on October 14, the department announced that over 82% of those claims were confirmed as fraudulent.
In what Gov. Larry Hogan described last July as a “massive, sophisticated criminal enterprise,” scammers attempted to use stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment claims worth around $501 million from the state’s unemployment insurance system.
In a news release Wednesday, the state’s labor department said that of some 102,000 out-of-state claims that have been identified as potentially fraudulent, 91% have either not uploaded required verification documents or their documents were reviewed and denied.
And of some 67,700 claims that may be fraudulent, 69% have either not uploaded documents or the documents were reviewed and denied.
There are currently 9,677 (5.7%) in-state and out-of-state potentially fraudulent claims pending manual review and verification, the Maryland Department of Labor said, adding that these numbers could change as it continues its investigation.
“With bad actors continuing to target the important unemployment insurance funds intended to help those in need, our department has maintained heightened security measures to prevent and detect fraudulent activity,” Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson said in a statement.
Robinson said the department has more than doubled its team of specialists who review and verify the claims manually, in an effort to report fraud and reinstate legitimate claims and benefits.
As of Oct. 3, the Department of Labor has paid over $7.3 billion in benefits from the coronavirus relief bill, the state’s Extended Benefit Unemployment Insurance Program and regular unemployment insurance programs.
Since March, more than 736,678 claims have been completed; 672,053 or 91.2% processed; 568,823 or 77.2% receiving benefit payments; and 103,230 or 14% claims have been denied for not meeting state or federal requirements.
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the Maryland labor department $2.43 million in September to support the state’s ongoing investigation.
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