ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland officials have uncovered a “massive criminal enterprise” involving over 47,500 fraudulent claims totaling over $501 million, leading to a broader investigation, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday.
After detecting an “unusual increase” in out-of-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims over the Fourth of July weekend, the Maryland Department of Labor discovered more than 47,500 fraudulent claims using stolen identities and personal information acquired from previous national data breaches, according to Hogan, and several state officials.
The department immediately notified the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland and the U.S DOL Office of the Inspector General and has been coordinating with them on the ongoing investigation.
“Thanks to the efforts of our Labor Department, not only did we identify the fraudulent activity here in Maryland and save the taxpayers half a billion dollars, but we also helped federal authorities uncover related illegal activity in states across the country,” Hogan said. “This criminal enterprise seeking to take advantage of a global pandemic to steal hundreds of millions—perhaps billions—of dollars from taxpayers is despicable.”
Hogan said the Maryland DOL has not experienced any breach of the state’s unemployment insurance system.
"We will continue to work with both the U.S. Attorney and the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General on this ongoing investigation, both here in Maryland and in other states across the country to do whatever it takes to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, detecting and stopping this fraud ensures that money remains available in these funds for the tens of millions of deserving people all across America who actually need the help," Hogan said.
The governor also said the state has now processed over $4.3 billion in federal unemployment insurance benefits payments to more than 489,000 Marylanders.
“Labor has processed 96.4% of all claims and their backlog is down to just 3.6%,” Hogan’s deputy communications director Kata Hall tweeted.
Last week, Marylanders faced a new hurdle trying to collect unemployment insurance.
Some people were given benefits, only to have them suddenly canceled due to fraud concerns, according to officials.
Officials said the majority of these cases are for people who recently moved out of state but were told to file for unemployment in Maryland.