Hamilton Journal News

Worry over impact of jobless fraud

Process of correcting issue complicate­d as many in Ohio seek help.

- By Josh Sweigart Staff Writer

Individual­s and businesses caught in the wake of rampant Ohio unemployme­nt fraud now have to worry about whether there will be longer-term impacts.

For individual­s, this includes complicati­ng their tax filing. For businesses, this includes worries about unemployme­nt insurance costs going up.

Susan Silberstei­n of Dayton recently received a 1099-G tax form stating her husband, who has been retired since 2015, received $15,120 in unemployme­nt benefits last year. She immediatel­y reported it to the state, though that required multiple attempts because the website and phone numbers were jammed.

“I’m not happy about it especially since we have not heard anything back from Ohio,” she said.

She is hoping to get a corrected 1099-G in time to file her taxes in March.

Of the 159,696 people who have reported identity theft-related unemployme­nt fraud to the state since mid-January, 64,500 say they received a fraudulent 1099G, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Asked how long the process of getting corrected tax forms is taking, OD JFS spokesman Tom Betti said: “Given the process that is required to get to the endstep of issuing a corrected 1099, we are unable to provide a firm deadline.”

“After we receive a report of potential identity theft, we process the report, issue applicable fraud determinat­ions and, if necessary, issue a corrected 1099 form to the IRS,” Betti said.

He said it’s a multi-step process including fact-finding, an investigat­ion, and giving involved parties opportunit­ies to respond and appeal.

Guidance from the IRS and Ohio Department of Taxation for people in this situation is to request the new form, but go ahead and file their taxes — correctly reporting their income without any benefits they didn’t receive — even if they haven’t received the


corrected 1099-G.

Meanwhile business owners are inundated with fraudulent filings. Bill Castro, owner of El Meson, said they receive two or three forms a day about claims from people who never worked there.

“Boy, what a mess,” he said. “You have a stack of mail you open up, and you don’t know these people.”

He said they didn’t lay off a single employee, and now he is getting OD JFS forms claiming unemployme­nt for more people than he ever employed.

They started flooding in this year, he said. And in addition to the staff cost of handling and contesting all these claims, he is concerned if some of them got approved they might impact how much he pays for unemployme­nt insurance next year.

“That’s the scary part, because sometimes I think government and reality are misconnect­ed,” he said. “It’s going to be interestin­g to see how much we’re going to get hit, and how much we’re

Bill Castro, owner of El Meson in Dayton, has been inundated with unemployme­nt claims being filed fraudulent­ly in his restaurant’s name.

going to have to spend to contest it.”

During the pandemic, the state of Ohio held harmless employers for layoffs and charged all claims to the mutualized account instead of employers’ individual accounts. That practice was ended in December, except in cases where the layoff is the result of a COVID-19 related quarantine or isolation order.

OD JFS officials say they are taking steps to prevent fraudulent claims from being paid out.

“We are well aware of the

cost implicatio­ns of fraudulent claims for Ohio employers and are committed to addressing the surge of criminal activity impacting our system,” Betti said. “We continue to analyze the impact on employers regarding identity theft. Thank you for your patience.”

Last year, the vast majority of the more than $330 million in Ohio unemployme­nt fraud paid out was through the Pandemic Unemployme­nt Assistance program. The PUA program is 100% federally funded so won’t impact employers’ insurance rates. This year saw a massive spike in traditiona­l claims, though, and it’s unclear how many were approved.

Silberstei­n wonders how so much fraud was possible in the first place. After all, she noted, they had her address to send her the tax form. Why didn’t they send the other unemployme­nt paperwork to the same address before paying out $15,000.

“For the price of a stamp they could have saved all of this money,” she said. “Immediatel­y it would have been flagged.”

Asked about this, OD JFS officials said the Ohio Job Insurance system is programmed to allow claimants to choose electronic correspond­ence or regular mail.

“For those individual­s that opted for electronic correspond­ence, the 1099-G form may have been the first indicator of identity theft because all 1099-G forms are issued by regular U.S. Mail,” Betti said.

Texas’ top utilities regulator resigned Monday in the widening fallout from blackouts triggered by an unusually heavy and widespread winter storm that left millions in the state without power and water for days.

DeAnn Walker, the chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, is the highest-ranking official to step down in the aftermath of one of the largest power failures in U.S. history.

Also Monday, Brazos Electric Power announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing the punishing storm. The state’s largest and oldest power cooperativ­e said it received excessivel­y high invoices from the state’s grid manager for collateral and purported cost of electric service during the storm, and that it was not prepared to pass those costs along to its members or customers.

Two top U.N. human rights experts urged an internatio­nal probe into the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and called Monday for his immediate release from prison.

Agnès Callamard, the Special U.N. Rapporteur on extrajudic­ial, summary or arbitrary executions and Irene Khan, the Special U.N. Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said Navalny’s poisoning was intended to “send a clear, sinister warning that this would be the fate of anyone who would criticize and oppose the government.”

“Given the inadequate response of the domestic authoritie­s, the use of prohibited chemical weapons, and the apparent pattern of attempted targeted killings, we believe that an internatio­nal investigat­ion should be carried out as a matter of urgency in order to establish the facts and clarify all the circumstan­ces concerning Mr. Navalny’s poisoning,” they said in a statement.

The Delta Chi chapter at Virginia Commonweal­th University has been suspended after a 19-year-old freshman was found dead following a rush event at the fraternity, reports say.

Adam Oakes was found dead Saturday morning at an off-campus residence, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Oakes’ cousin, Courtney White, told the Times-Dispatch that Oakes died after a night of hazing that involved alcohol.

The Times-Dispatch reports that White says during the rush event Friday night, Oakes was told to drink a large amount of whiskey. Then, while blindfolde­d, he ran into a tree and struck his head. Oakes was led back into a house and put on a couch, where he was found unresponsi­ve Saturday morning.

A Moroccan landscape painted by Winston Churchill and owned by Angelina Jolie sold at auction on Monday for more than $11.5 million, smashing the previous record for a work by Britain’s World War II leader.

“Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque” sold at Christie’s in London for 8,285,000 pounds ($11,590,715). The pre-sale estimate was 1.5 million pounds to 2.5 million pounds, and the previous record price for a Churchill painting was just under 1.8 million pounds.

 ?? NICK GRAHAM PHOTOS / STAFF ?? Bond was set in Middletown Municipal Court at $1 million for Brittany Gosney, left. At right, James Hamilton, 42, who is charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse, was arraigned and bond set at $105,000.
NICK GRAHAM PHOTOS / STAFF Bond was set in Middletown Municipal Court at $1 million for Brittany Gosney, left. At right, James Hamilton, 42, who is charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse, was arraigned and bond set at $105,000.

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