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AG Shapiro charges 8 City of Philadelphia employees with fraudulently obtaining PUA benefits through the CARES Act

The defendants conspired to illegally obtain more than $300,000 in benefits while still being employed by the city, Shapiro said Thursday.
Credit: AP
FILE -Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks with members of the media during a news conference, in Philadelphia, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. A massive Republican primary field for governor in Pennsylvania is spurring growing discomfort among party leaders that a widely splintered primary vote could produce a winner who cannot beat Democrat Josh Shapiro in November's general election.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

PHILADELPHIA — Eight City of Philadelphia employees have been charged with theft by deception and other offenses related to their alleged attempt to illegally obtain Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits through the CARES Act, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Thursday.

The suspects were still employed by the City when the conspired to illegally obtain PUA funds in excess of $300,000, Shapiro said in a press release.

“These arrests are an important reminder that falsely applying for unemployment benefits is a serious crime," said Shapiro. "These individuals took money away from taxpayers, and we will fight to get those funds repaid. I commend the City of Philadelphia for investigating this fraud, and I encourage others to do the same."

Shapiro is running on the Democratic ticket in the race for Pennsylvania Governor in November. He is opposed by Republican Doug Mastriano.

Following a referral from the City of Philadelphia Office of Inspector General, agents with the Office of Attorney General allege that the eight defendants fraudulently applied for PUA benefits during the time of February 2020 and September 2020 claiming on their applications that their employment ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shapiro said.

Upon further investigation, prosecutors allege that these individuals were all employed by the City of Philadelphia during the time they fraudulently applied for these benefits, and determined that each individual applied for and received between approximately $20,000 and $60,000 in PUA benefits, according to Shapiro.

“Public service is a privilege and it demands honesty," said Alexander DeSantis, Inspector General for the City of Philadelphia. "The City made every effort to protect its workforce during the pandemic, yet these individuals chose to misappropriate government benefits that were intended for people in need. 

"We thank the Attorney General and his dedicated staff for holding these wrongdoers accountable."

The suspects' identities were not released.

To date, Shapiro said, the Office of Attorney General has charged 63 individuals across the Commonwealth for submitting fraudulent PUA applications amounting to approximately $3.1 million in fraudulent PUA funds. Investigations into PUA fraud remain ongoing.

“If you made some extra cash during the pandemic by fraudulently applying for PUA benefits –  turn yourself in and get on a payment plan to repay the taxpayer money stolen," Shaprio said. "Do the right thing, or potentially face criminal charges and prosecution. 

"The Department of Labor & Industry has set up a Fraud Hotline at 1-800-692-7469 or benefits.uc.pa.gov so you can self-report this fraud. Don’t wait for us to knock on your door."

The eight defendants were charged with: Theft by Deception, Receiving Stolen Property and Tampering with Public Records. 

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Tom Ost-Prisco, Deputy Attorney General Suzanne Edwards and Deputy Attorney General Kate McDermott. 

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