(The Center Square) – The attorney general’s office has charged eight Philadelphia municipal workers, alleging they claimed more than $300,000 in pandemic-related unemployment funds.
Thanks to a referral from Philadelphia’s Office of Inspector General, the eight were found to have received payments from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program while still on city payroll. Each worker received between $20,000 and $60,000 in PUA benefits.
“These arrests are an important reminder that falsely applying for unemployment benefits is a serious crime,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “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.”
The workers are charged with theft by deception, receiving stolen property, and tampering with public records. Four of them worked for Philadelphia’s Streets Department, one worked for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, two worked in the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, and it was unclear where the city employed one worker.
Charges were filed against Aaron Anderson-Bush, Amir Berry, Antonio Vincent Ford, Christopher Daye, Derrick Smith, J’Mar Maurice Henderson, Shanae Johnson and Stacey Moultrie.
In the criminal complaint filed, two workers were interviewed. Daye claimed that he was out of work for a year and had been hit by a truck while on the job, then had a heart attack, and said the City had cut him off from workman’s compensation. He stated “there was a lot of confusion about PUA eligibility.” However, the City still employed Daye and paid him while he collected PUA benefits, and received three salary increases during that time.
Moultrie told investigators she had been told that workers could claim PUA funds if they had lost overtime. “What do I need to do, pay the money back? I only filed the claim based on overtime that I had lost, I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” according to the complaint.
“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,” Shapiro said. “Do the right thing, or potentially face criminal charges and prosecution.”
The attorney general’s office has charged 63 Pennsylvanians for pandemic-related fraud, amounting to $3.1 million in funds.
The Department of Labor & Industry, responsible for disbursing pandemic-related relief funding, has a backlog of 30,000 cases to review for fraud, as The Center Square previously reported. Proposed legislation in the House would appoint a special prosecutor in the Office of Inspector General to help process those cases.
Shapiro encouraged self-reporting fraud by calling the Department of Labor & Industry’s fraud hotline at 800-692-7469 or going online to benefits.uc.pa.gov.