As folks wrestle to safe unemployment advantages, prosecutors say fraud is rampant – CBS Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – We are in the coronavirus pandemic for a year and people are still struggling to secure unemployment benefits.

At the same time, prosecutors say that fraud is widespread.

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KDKA first carried news of inmates seeking unemployment benefits in August, but charges were also brought against those allegedly complicit. The US Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh told KDKA Meghan Schiller that pandemic fraud is a clear problem in our region.

“I think it’s important to get the word out now because, as you know, Congress is considering extending federal unemployment benefits,” said Stephen Kaufman, the acting US attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The decision to extend the benefits could be made on March 14, and Kaufman told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that more money could mean more fraud

“We have so far indicted 43 people who are part of these programs,” Kaufman said.

Just this week, his office filed a lawsuit against a local woman named Asia DeVaughn. She is accused of filing a pandemic on behalf of a prison inmate.

DeVaughn’s defense attorney Mark Sindler said she raised thousands of dollars, described “in her low teens” but returned the money and was “very contrite.”

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Kaufman couldn’t speak to a specific case but said it was one of many.

“We are still investigating a lot of cases. And so it’s a fairly common thing. There are inmates involved in various facilities, ”Kaufman said.

It’s difficult news for small business owner LeeAnn Dale.

“We go day after day,” said Dale.

She is a co-owner of RNL Vacuum LLC, a commercial and residential rooftop vacuum company with four employees. She applied for unemployment benefits, was excluded from UC benefits, applied for PUA benefits, and later learned after finding a note on her file:

“You said you should be getting a labor allowance, not PUA, and that’s what I did. I was like you were kidding me, ”Dale said.

She said she was still waiting for a response after reapplying for PUA. She feels like she is “walking around” and has not received the money she believes is owed to her.

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“Cheating is out there, but it’s not fair to the people trying to do the right thing,” she said.

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