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Arizona DES director talks unemployment claims, fraudulent cases

Arizona DES director talks unemployment claims, fraudulent cases

The director says the agency has recovered millions in fraudulent claims.

PHOENIX – In an exclusive interview with FOX 10, the director of Arizona’s Department of Economic Security (DES), Michael Wisehart, revealed how much money the state has recouped from fraudulent unemployment accounts. Wisehart also touted the success of his agency’s ability to get out the $300 weekly increase in unemployment.

After months of much-needed unemployment payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency continues to aggressively tackle fraud in the unemployment system, with Wisehart saying they’ve recovered $70 million in taxpayer dollars that went out to fraudulent claims.

When asked if any charges have any charges been filed in connection to the fraud, he says, “No charges yet in Arizona but there have been charges around the country where we’ve participated in the investigation.”

RELATED: Arizona leaders say the unemployment fund could run out by the end of 2020

He added, “Most of what we’ve stopped is fraud. 90% or more of what we’ve stopped is fraud, but that leaves real heartbreaking Arizonans caught up in the 5 to 10% and that’s not OK.”

Wisehart assures help is on the way for those waiting for payments, saying, “We’re likely to release about 100,000 or so claims in the next couple of days that we’ve identified through our fraud analytics as not being fraud. So yes, it’s not a small amount.”

RELATED: DES officials: “tens of thousands” could be affected by unemployment filing scam

He said it’s heartbreaking to see families impacted by fraud prevention but added many measures were necessary.

“If we just paid blindly without doing our due diligence, then the taxpayers would be on the hook for upwards of $10 billion in claim payments. We just can’t have that happen,” he said.

As funds are unlocked for those 100,000, the payments will include the $300 boost in unemployment.

Wisehart said there’s a reason Arizona was the first state to get money out. “My team just dug in and said these Arizonans, you know, these benefits are limited time and these Arizonans need them right now so let’s get after it and get Arizonans this much-needed help,” he said.

Arizonan shares story of her unemployment being paused Arizona mother and daughter on unemployment during COVID-19 pandemic

Maggie’s mother ran into an issue with her account being tagged as fraud, so for now, she’s the breadwinner of the family.

Randi Rosen filed for pandemic unemployment assistance the same week as her daughter in May.

She is a notary, and her daughter, Maggie, is a nanny. But in June, Randi’s pay was stopped because her account was cited as fraud along with over one million other Arizona DES claims.

“I just want to scream. I cry a lot. I cry a lot,” Randi said.

Maggie, though, kept getting money, even receiving the $300 boost this week thanks to President Donald Trump’s executive order.

“Now I can buy food and buy what I need for my pets and not have to worry for a minute,” Maggie said.

Although thankful, Randi doesn’t like that now her daughter is the one supporting her family, saying, “She’s the breadwinner, she’s the one supporting us and for me, that is not OK.”

See Wisehart’s full Aug. 19 interview below: Full interview: FOX 10’s Steve Nielsen talks with Arizona DES Director Michael Wisehart

FOX 10’s Steve Nielsen talked with Arizona DES Director Michael Wisehart about how Arizona is the first state to get an additional $300 in unemployment benefits, as well as dealing with fraudsters.

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