Two Erie County assistant district attorneys were honored for recovering more than $360,000 from people who collected state unemployment benefits while they were working. The Department of Labor presented Awards of Merit to Holly P. Tucker and Gary M. Ertel for their success in prosecuting unemployment fraud.
Erie County ranks third in the state for recovering illegally accepted unemployment money.
"They are basically scamming the system," District Attorney John J. Flynn said of the perpetrators. "We are collecting money that is owed to the taxpayers."
Ertel said that almost every case begins with a person making a legitimate unemployment claim. It turns criminal when the individual gets a job but continues to file for unemployment.
Much of the fraud is discovered by cross-referencing employment records, but Ertel said they also hear from disgruntled employers, coworkers and acquaintances who object to the pilfering of their tax money. In most cases, the court orders restitution and puts the individual under probation supervision.