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July 29, 2020

Fraudsters tried to steal $44 million of Pennsylvania's COVID-19 stimulus funds, investigators say

Clusters of illegitimate claims allegedly made by the same people

Investigations Fraud
COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Investigators identified more than 4,000 counts of fraudulent claims for Pennsylvania's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. They total $44 million.

Investigators have uncovered more than 4,000 fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Pennsylvania. 

Many of the claims, which total more than $44 million, were made by people who stole the identities of state residents, U.S. Attorney William McSwain announced Tuesday. Clusters of fraudulent claims were made by the same people. 

Federal and state law enforcement agencies prevented $28 million from being stolen. US Bank, which administers the debit card program Pennsylvania uses to make some PUA payments, identified another $16 million that will be paid back to the state treasury department. 

The PUA program is funded by federal stimulus dollars and administered by the state. 

Investigators were aided by residents who notified law enforcement officers after they received PUA funds without applying for them. Anyone who has received PUA benefits without applying for them – whether by check, debit card or direct deposit – likely has had their identity stolen, investigators said. 

Other people have had legitimate claims incorrectly flagged amid the investigation, Julia Simon-Mishel, the supervising attorney of the Unemployment Compensation Unit of Philadelphia Legal Assistance, told KYW. Their claims have stalled. 

Such residents may need to upload two forms of identification, including one with a photo, in the PUA portal and then email, according to Philadelphia Legal Assistance. Then government officials can verify their identity and review their claim. 

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