HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- The state has decided it's going to start 'chasing the cheaters.' It's the name of a new program that has already started catching people who are cheating by fraudulently collecting unemployment benefits.
Call volume at the labor department's call center is still very heavy on Mondays, even though weekly unemployment claims have dropped from about 100,000 per week to about 70,000.
Unemployment checks in Connecticut totaled about $1.5 billion last year, it is also estimated that a whopping 32 million of those dollars went to people who were cheating the system.
"It's time to get tough on crooks because it hurts those who are honest," said Commissioner Sharon Palmer, CT Dept. of Labor.
Friday the department announced they now have the staff and have started investigating the cheaters and are going after them.
"In a short period of time, we've had 11 arrests, it's 11 now counting the one this morning and the involved, just in a month, that involved $185,000 in fraud," said Kevin Kane, Chief State's Attorney.
And this is not just a petty crime, it's stealing public funds which is larceny.
"If it's $2,000 or more that's been stolen, the maximum penalty is 20 years. If it's less than $2,000, it's a class C felony, the maximum penalty is 10 years," said Kane.
"The majority of the cases that we've handed over to the Chief State's Attorney's office at this point are individuals who have gone back to work and are working and earning a paycheck and have just decided not to stop receiving benefits," said Christine Paquette, CT Dept. of Labor.
A new anonymous fraud hot line has been set up by the department to report unemployment check fraud. You can report fraud by calling 1-800-894-3490.
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