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State of Ohio continues fight against unemployment fraud

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Former US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio speaks during a news conference with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services on Thursday. (ODJFS image taken from Zoom)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKEF) -- The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is having a news conference for an update on unemployment. Included in the call is former US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers.

This is the first time DeVillers has spoken publicly since taking on the new role of leading the Cyber Fraud Law Enforcement Working Group.

DeVillers says they are working with state and federal law enforcement to find fraudsters. He says the federal team right now is up and running, and his working group is working with them on a daily basis. Below are the federal partners they are working with.

ODJFS says total fraud overpayments in the traditional unemployment program from the beginning of the pandemic through the first quarter of 2021, including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, is about $21 million. The department says total fraud overpayments in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program from the beginning of the pandemic through April 2021, including the FPUC money, amounts to just under $443 million.

Washington Township resident Shannon Ryan says earlier this year, she received two different documents from the ODJFS, claiming she had an unemployment account.

"I've not been unemployed during this time period I've never filed anything," Ryan said.

Ran says she was worried about fraud, and notified ODJFS, hoping something would be done to find those behind this.

"They're robbing the state, but they're kind of taking away from other people who are more deserving," Ryan said.

Dayton 24/7 Now's Chelsea Sick asked, "if you could ask the state anything what would you want to know from them?"

"I never received information back to know whether that immediately stopped the process of it, was there ever any money sent to the person who was claiming they were me," Ryan said.

We asked ODJFS director Matt Damschroder if there were any efforts to follow- up with those who had filed fraud complaints.

"When they make a report the fraud flag occurs there's really nothing further for that person to do in those circumstances," Damschroder said.

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DeVillers says this will be a long process, and the law enforcement team could be working for years on unemployment fraud. One goal is to get the fraud dollars back to Ohio.

"Individuals and enterprises took advantage of a nation trying to get help to people in need, now we are going after those people," DeVillers said.

Devillers was appointed by Gov. DeWine's administration as a law enforcement subject expert after he was replaced by the Biden administration. He was expected to serve as a liaison between the Ohio Department Job and Family Services and local, state and federal law enforcement.

"This is historical, nationally historical, loss to the taxpayers of this country and of this state," DeVillers said.

ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder says waivers will also be available in the coming days for people who received non-fraud unemployment overpayments at no fault of their own. This could prevent them from having to repay those overpayments. Those who may be eligible for the waiver will receive a notification from ODJFS, either by email or mail.