PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Now that four fraudinvestigators from the Rhode Island Department ofLabor and Training have been suspended following a Target12 investigation, we find out what happens next. Who'sinvestigating fraud now?
Wefollowed the state's four "fraud and overpayment"investigators. Their job takes them on the road investigatingphony unemployment and disability claims. Their daily itineraries,obtained by Target 12, tell their supervisors where they are andwhen.
But often we found them miles from where they claimed to be, athome or doing personal business. In all, with 21 days ofsurveillance, Target 12 found these workers at home or on errandsfor a total of 34 hours.
"No one who is on the clock should have time to be athome," said DirectorSandra Powell, Department of Labor and Training.
Sandra Powell said her department's already launched an internalprobe and the state police have an investigation underway intopossible criminal charges. But the job itself, Powell said, isimportant.
"Throughout the years, the level of dollars that they've beenable to recoup has been pretty good," she said.
Department officials say it's hard to put a figure on how muchthe investigators have recovered. But last year, the unit flagged$700,000 in what they call "unemployment overpayment." That led to324 cases handled by these fraud and overpayment investigators.
Tim White: "In this bad economy, shouldn't they be overwhelmedwith unemployment cases?
Director Sandra Powell, Department of Labor and Training:"Whether more people might be trying to collect and work, I couldonly speculate, so I couldn't say because of the economy they wouldhave more cases as a result."
Once an investigator gets a case, it's their job to root outfraud. If they find someone has claimed more than $5,000 in phonyclaims, they hand the case over to the state police forprosecution. We checked out those numbers.
In 2006, the unit gave 70 cases to state police detectives. In2007, 54. And in 2008, a three-year low; 45 cases were forwarded tothe state police.
Tim White: "Could they have recouped more dollars, so tospeak?"
Director Sandra Powell, Department of Labor and Training: "Andthat's one of the things that we certainly will add to ourinvestigation."
With all four investigators now suspended with pay, aspokesperson tells Target 12 pendingcases are being reviewed and will be handed over to the statepolice. But the field work these investigators were assigned tohandle is on hold until this thing is sorted out.
Copyright WPRI 12
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