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VEC has paid out more than $50 million in fraudulent unemployment claims

Posted at 12:39 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 07:58:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) said it has paid out more than $50 million in fraudulent claims -- but has only recovered 13% so far.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers shared a story about a Richmond woman who received hundreds of letters from the VEC with her address on them, but different names.

Joyce Fogg with the VEC said the fraud unit investigated this issue and confirmed it as a case of fraud.

Since the story aired, CBS 6 has heard from a number of people in Central Virginia who said this happened to them too.

"Those are not people who have legitimate claims. Those are people who are trying to fraud the system, and they've put a name in that they've stolen the information, with an address where they'll try to come by and pick up the mail before the person picks their mail up," Fogg said.

At first, Fogg declined to tell CBS 6 how many claims have been filed fraudulently, how much money may have been paid out on fraudulent claims, and how much of that money they've been able to recoup so far.

She said it would require time the staff needs to assist clients.

So, we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request on March 18 for the numbers.

On Friday, we received a response hours after the VEC sent an email to legislators alerting them to the numbers.

"I think they sent it to the legislators, look at what we're doing because they knew you had the spotlight on them. That's a good thing, it's a good thing for having a spotlight on legislators, and politicians and people that are responsible, make them do their job," State Senator Joe Morrissey (D - Petersburg) said.

According to the VEC, 8,765 fraudulent claims have been submitted to the agency to date.

So far, they have paid out over $46 million in federal benefits and over $5 million in state benefits on fraudulent claims.

Of that, the VEC has been able to recover about 44% of the state money, but just under 10% of the federal money.

"They will get better, their auditors will get better, and people have to be prosecuted," Morrissey said.

Morrissey, who represents the woman we profiled who received so many letters in the General Assembly, said "my constituent, she did the right thing, she contacted folks, she contacted your station."

So who should you contact if this happens to you?

Henrico and Chesterfield Police said they turn over all potential VEC fraud cases to the state.

Suspected victims should go to the VEC website and file a fraud claim.

Also, write "return to sender" on the envelope and send it back.

Fogg also said not to throw the letter away because it likely contains someone's personal information.

The VEC said they have a number of additional fraud investigations underway, and they expect numbers to grow.

"You can't rob the bank, give it back and say 'OK I'll give you the money back,' there has to be punishment and consequences. That's the area where the General Assembly would get involved to give the VEC a little more teeth to pursue recovery of fraudulently obtained monies," Morrissey said.

CBS 6 requested an interview on this topic with someone at the VEC, but never heard back.

In a press release, the VEC said it recently rolled out new technology to detect fraud, and new federal programs have additional restrictions to deter fraud.