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Former Lee County resident charged with unemployment fraud

State officials say they're cracking down on fraudulent claims

Tommy Jefferson III

Tommy Jefferson III

ALBANY, Ga. — A former Lee County resident's arrest on unemployment benefit fraud highlights what state officials say is a renewed effort to cut fraud from the benefit program.

Tommy Jefferson III, 30, who currently lives in Duluth according to his arrest warrant, has been charged by the state department of labor with violating Georgia's unemployment security law. Warrants obtained by the Herald contend that while Jefferson was in Smithville, he filed a fraudulent unemployment insurance claim and received nearly $10,000 for a time period in which investigators believe he was gainfully employed.

Jefferson was released on a $3,200 bond on May 17.

Sam Hall, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Labor and Betty Brown, the director of the department's unemployment insurance department, say that their office has become increasingly involved in rooting out and prosecuting if necessary people who they believe are knowingly defrauding the unemployment benefit program.

"We're seeing an increase in cases, but we feel that's mostly because we've stepped out scrutiny of the program," Brown said. "We're much more aware and are more sensitive to fraud today than we were just a few years ago...in 2010 the (U.S.) Department of Labor asked states to step up awareness and aggressively root out fraud."

"It's a big priority for (State labor) Commissioner Butler," Hall said.

Each year, the state of Georgia oversees the payment of more than $800 million each year in unemployment insurance benefit claims, Brown said. If you tack on the emergency extension that Congress has allocated to the states to extend unemployment benefits from the federal level, that number tips over the $1 billion mark.

And yet, according to the stats, only a small number of recipients are believed to be involved in fraud, they say.

Of the 303,738 people who received state unemployment benefits in 2012, 4,580 or 1.5 percent, attempted to defraud the program, Hall says.

"There may be some cases that slip through the cracks, but we're pretty confident that this is an accurate number," Hall said.

The GDOL uses social security numbers to match recipients of unemployment benefits with those who employers are reporting payroll for, Hall said. GDOL has also set up a fraud hotline and anonymous reporting system through their website.

RELATED: Click here to access the GDOL's fraud reporting system.

Despite the fraud, GDOL's first priority is getting the money back, Brown says.

"We give the recipient multiple attempts to pay the money back. We'll work with them, set up a payment plan or do what we have to get the money back before we take legal action," Brown said. "We also have the authority to garnish their federal and state tax returns until the state is paid back."

Comments

Sister_Ruby_Two 1 year, 4 months ago

Gone have to turn in the keys to that Bimmer

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VSU 1 year, 4 months ago

Looks like spookj6's finest homie in Lee County got busted.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

"And yet, according to the stats, only a small number of recipients are believed to be involved in fraud, they say."

Sounds like what Saxby Chambliss' Chief of Staff said about fraud in the food stamp program. "Fraud has gone down every year Saxby has been in office thanks to changes he has put in place". Of course I said I didn't believe it and he responded "that doesn't make any difference, this is the way it is". Saxby and others involved in parceling out dollars would like to believe this without any substantiation and think we are stupid enough to buy off without question.

The comment in the article is Saxbyish--most likely a bunch of crap because no one actively looks for fraud in federal programs. Hogwash!

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RedEric 1 year, 4 months ago

Oh geez! I bet this is the first time this has ever happened.

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erock 1 year, 4 months ago

He may have. After all it does take a certain degree of intelligence to con the system. It's not likely that he picked that up in the Dougherty county school system.

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bigbob 1 year, 4 months ago

You know this happens everyday. Big deal they caught one. They could save millions if they ever got serious about welfare & foodstamp fraud.

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VSU 1 year, 4 months ago

This is true, This dude isn't the only one. I bet if they did more further investigations throughout the whole country there would be thousands that have done the same thing. This guy was just unfortunate to get caught.

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agirl_25 1 year, 4 months ago

Yesssssssss......how true bigbob. One thing I would like to see them investigate is all the crazy head checks that the government doles out every month. When I worked as a visiting nurse I went into homes where kids not only told me that "mama says I don't have to worry about working, the government is going to take care of us like it does now"...and my all time favorite was - - "Mama said if I can get a crazy head check that will be good. All I have to do is act like my brother. Mama said it is easy to act crazy."

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waltspecht 1 year, 4 months ago

From some exposure, and having people ask if we are hiring on the phone and only showing up looking for a job when they know we aren't, I'd say it is a lot worse than 1.5%. People have become professional about gaming the various systems. There is even word that agency staffers are telling them how to do it so they receive max benefits and the individual's job is safe due to numbers of clients. I have been told they aren't breaking any laws by telling folks how to answer questionaires, afterall they aren't the ones filling them out and signing them. Kind of like all the A.D.D and respitory problems. Sure seems to be an exceptionally large percentage of the Benefits group suffer from these.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 4 months ago

Next, start on the food stamp program.

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Sister_Ruby_Two 1 year, 4 months ago

Nobody will ever get serious about fraud. The Democrats would start losing votes in the elections. Not gone happen.

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 4 months ago

This happens all the time where I work. Some of the workers are laid off for a couple of weeks for lack of work, we then rehire them, but they continue to collect. We find out a year later when the Dept. of Labor sends us a form to fill out asking how much the employee earned each week. I'm SHOCKED something was actually done about it this time. I'm stunned this guy was arrested. If this was standard operating procedure, deadbeats would not be abusing the system. Our workers have just been "slapped on the hand" and are unable to collect unemployment the next time we run out of work.

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