Fraudsters target unemployment benefits in Tampa Bay area - WFLA News Channel 8

Fraudsters target unemployment benefits in Tampa Bay area

Posted: Updated:
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Unemployment benefits are being targeted by fraudsters using stolen identities to file fake claims, News Channel 8 has found.

Frank Thune, a machinist working in Pinellas Park, said he found out his identity was used when his human resources manager asked him if he’d filed an unemployment claim.

“I asked the unemployment people – I said, how does this happen?” said Thune.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Economic Opportunity said authorities are working to recover about $420,000 in potentially fraudulent claims paid out since November 2013. Over the same period, DEO stopped 4,700 potentially fraudulent claims, stopping $62,000 from going out, she said.

There are reports of unknown suspects using the identities of residents across the Tampa Bay area, including an attorney in Tampa, a human resources manager in Sarasota and a handful of teachers in Pasco County.

The identities of five teachers, including one substitute, were used to file unemployment claims, said Pasco County schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. However, Cobbe said the district, which has thousands of employees, does not believe the cases are connected.

“We don’t think it’s somebody inside the district,” she said.

Victims, like Thune, are often finding out about the crime from their current or former employers, who are notified of the claim by the state.

Although several said they were told the fraudster did not get any money on their behalf, reports with various law enforcement agencies show those who filed the claims intended the money to go to locations including an address in Miami and a non-existent one in Clearwater.

In Hillsborough County, about a half dozen people have reported the crime.

Investigators are working with the state, but there appear to be some challenges.

“We're getting information from them,” said Corp. Bruce Crumpler of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. “There's a learning curve and some growing pains going on right now with what information we're still struggling through that process.”

With the history of how criminals have used stolen identities to file fake tax returns in the Tampa Bay area, Crumpler said his office is looking at this crime seriously.

“We don't want it to be an epidemic,” he said.

Related Content: Florida unemployment rates drop to 6.2%

Related Content: Unemployment website system not fully fixed yet

Copyright 2014 WFLA All Rights Reserved

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • TPD homicide detective under federal criminal investigation

    TPD homicide detective under federal criminal investigation

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 6:55 PM EDT2014-04-22 22:55:30 GMT
    Tampa Police Officer Eric Houston, who is working at a crime scene in this file photo, is under federal investigation.Tampa Police Officer Eric Houston, who is working at a crime scene in this file photo, is under federal investigation.
    The feds are investigating one of Tampa Police Department's lead homicide detectives. Officer Eric Houston, who is one of the lead detectives in the Julie Schenecker murder investigation, is under federal criminal investigation. 
    The feds are investigating one of Tampa Police Department's lead homicide detectives. Officer Eric Houston, who is one of the lead detectives in the Julie Schenecker murder investigation, is under federal criminal investigation. 
  • New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 4:01 AM EDT2014-04-22 08:01:42 GMT
    Soldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photoSoldier & homeowner Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago. Facebook photo
     When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
    When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Now, they're fighting to get their house back.
  • Tampa homeowner says Duke Energy is a bully for taking her oak tree

    Tampa homeowner says Duke Energy is a bully for taking her oak tree

    Monday, April 21 2014 5:34 PM EDT2014-04-21 21:34:15 GMT
    Neda Dandache and her family love their backyard oasis, even though a gigantic Duke Energy transmission tower abuts their backyard. Oak trees block that view, for now, and give them shade.The trees have never been an issue, but now, Duke wants them gone. Dandache says Duke's forester told her they may cause a problem - seven years from now."
    Neda Dandache and her family love their backyard oasis, even though a gigantic Duke Energy transmission tower abuts their backyard. Oak trees block that view, for now, and give them shade.The trees have never been an issue, but now, Duke wants them gone. Dandache says Duke's forester told her they may cause a problem - seven years from now."
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.