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Virginia attorney general announces unemployment compensation fraud charges

Efforts to nab fraudsters has yielded four indictments.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — By all accounts, unemployment compensation fraud is a real problem with real victims — the taxpayers.

And yet a terse news release issued today from the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares announced that attempts in Virginia to nail fraudsters during the past six months has yielded indictments against four individuals so far.

In March, Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin and Miyares announced an agreement with the Virginia Employment Commission to pursue fraudulent claims for unemployment compensation. Miyares formed the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit within his office and went to work. 

This was an acknowledged issue. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General opened approximately 120 unemployment insurance investigative matters annually. Since the pandemic started, the office “has opened more than 190,000 investigative matters concerning UI [unemployment insurance] fraud.” These investigations account for approximately 96% of the office’s investigative caseload, compared to approximately 11% prior to the pandemic, according to the office's website.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, state unemployment systems reported increased fraud and overpayment issues, costing $63 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the unemployment insurance improper payment rate in Virginia was 38% from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2021.

The indictments are as follows:

  • Britanny Anderson of Lynchburg: one count of felony obtaining money by false pretense; one count of misdemeanor computer fraud; three counts of misdemeanor false statement to obtain or increase benefits.
  • Susan Banks of Culpeper: one count of felony obtaining money by false pretense, one count of felony conspiracy to commit larceny; one count of misdemeanor computer fraud.
  • Bryant Banks of Culpeper: one count of felony obtaining money by false pretense; one count of felony conspiracy to commit larceny.
  • Vo Long of Culpeper: one count of felony obtaining money by false pretense; and one count of felony conspiracy to commit larceny.

Miyares was elected in 2021, and some of his efforts have drawn criticism. Earlier this month, for example, he formed another unit within his office — the Election Integrity Unit — to take aim at elections fraud.

“Unemployment benefits fraud is a real thing,” wrote state Senator Scott Surovell in an email exchange, “versus voting fraud which is chasing ghosts.”

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