Thirty-two people from the Chicago area are facing criminal charges for illegally collecting unemployment checks. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago is bringing the charges against those who allegedly filed for unemployment improperly.
Prosecutors say the 32 either had a job or were under-reporting their income. Federal prosecutors say the defendants allegedly collected anywhere from $19,000 to $38,000.
Twenty-seven are charged with felonies; five are charged with misdemeanor theft.
The felony counts carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as mandatory restitution. The misdemeanor counts have a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Jay Rowell heads Illinois’ Department of Employment Security says there is an uptick of fraudulent claims.
"Since there have been extended federal benefits, you know, there’s more of an incentive for people to attempt to defraud the system," Rowell said.
Rowell said he also wants to crack down on other cases of unemployment fraud in Illinois, smaller than what the feds have allegedly found.
"In my mind, paying out one penny improperly is something that needs to be addressed," he said.
Federal prosecutors say the 32 defendants defrauded the unemployment office of nearly $900,000 in total.
Illinois unemployment benefits are funded primarily by employers, while IDES administrative costs are funded primarily by the federal government.