Friday, October 12, 2012
McHenry County Jail Inmates Found On Unemployment Rolls
Undersheriff Andy Zinke told FEN Thursday there's no way for the Sheriff's Office to tell if an inmate is drawing unemployment compensation. Even if there were, he said, "there's no mechanism to report it."
IDES found More than 1,100 inmates around the state who'd received about $2 million in wrongful unemployment insurance benefits. The agency discovered them by cross-matching names on unemployment rolls with inmate lists from Illinois' county jails and state prisons for more than two years. While the new system stopped some payments before they ever were made, one man in Cook County jail received nearly $43,000, according to Wednesday's report. Cook County had the most inmates on the rolls, 296, who received $722,689 in wrongful payments.
People drawing unemployment have to check in with IDES via telephone or the Internet every week. Zinke said McHenry County inmates can't get on the Internet and have to make calls out of the jail collect. "We think someone was calling (to IDES) for them," he said.
Rivara said that's what IDES investigators believe was going on in most of the cases they uncovered. "Most of the time the inmates were already getting unemployment payments when they went to jail," Rivara said. IDES plans to sue inmates to get the money back and has started a weekly program to check its records for inmate names.
The agency received a $2.1 million federal grant last week to beef up its anti-fraud programs.