HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Potentially millions of dollars in unemployment benefits were given out to people that didn't deserve it, according to an audit done on the Virginia Employment Commission.
“It's just ridiculous that there weren't more safeguards in place,” said legal analyst Sonny Stallings. “If you're going to make it that easy, don't be surprised when people cheat.”
Case after case, the News 3 I-Team has been following this issue for months.
In the most recent case, 35-year-old Coredarryll Hawkins was indicted for selling cocaine, having a firearm as a convicted felon and successfully applying for unemployment benefits for a job that he allegedly didn’t have, according to court records.
Records say he got about $34,400 over a 15-month period.
Overall, an audit of the VEC found that potentially $400 million was wrongly distributed during the course of the pandemic, which sparked many fraud investigations.
“While obviously, a dishonest person is the one to blame, the government's got to share in some blaming. This is just giving away money without any verification,” said Stallings.
In March, News 3’s I-Tteam asked the head of the VEC, Carrie Roth, about the audit. Roth was appointed by the governor in January.
Roth said there are significant deficiencies and said the agency is working to fix them.
She says they are focused daily on fixing the backlog, customer service issues and security problems.
“We target certain areas for discussions and focus to improve the processes. Every day, we learn from what happened the day before. We identified new issues to address and action items to work on improving those,” said Roth.
The attorney general and governor of Virginia signed an agreement to prosecute people who took advantage of the system, saying the state has been inundated with fraudulent claims since the pandemic.
“Protecting the Commonwealth from crime is one of my top priorities as attorney general. Fraudulent claims must be prosecuted and fraud on the unemployment fund diverts resources from those who need them most.”
Click here if you want to report potential fraud or identity theft related to unemployment insurance benefits or would like to report an overpayment.