Prisoners across New York have been collecting potentially millions of dollars in unemployment benefits while behind bars at the state’s expense, reports the Albany Times-Union. Eighty-four inmates have been caught receiving illegal unemployment payments totaling at least $178,000, officials announced. Four cases are pending prosecution. An additional 251 prisoner payments have been placed on hold for investigation, and a total of more than 280 cases are under criminal investigation, officials said.
The scam appeared to have been carried out by inmates’ friends and family members, who, outside of prison, filed for unemployment insurance with the state Department of Labor by phone. After providing the inmate’s Social Security Number and a PIN number, they would collect the money, which was distributed either via direct deposit or a debit card registered in that person’s name. The Department of Labor became aware of the scam in part because of an audit conducted by the state comptroller last spring, after which officials found 24 cases of inmates receiving unemployment benefits.