Eight people have been criminally charged with fraudulently obtaining pandemic unemployment funds while they were still working for the city of Philadelphia and getting paychecks, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.
The defendants alleged provided false information to the state, which was administering funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed into law in March 2020, and collected more than $300,000 combined, state prosecutors said.
Investigators determined that each person applied for and received between approximately $20,000 and $60,000 in unemployment benefits, state prosecutors said. The investigation began following a referral from the city Inspector General’s Office in late 2021.
“Public service is a privilege and it demands honesty,” Philadelphia Inspector General Alexander F. DeSantis said in a statement. “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.”
Kevin Lessard, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, said in an email Thursday evening that the city was working to dismiss the employees involved.
“There is no place in the city of Philadelphia’s workforce for those who choose to defraud government benefit programs that are intended for people in need, and we are grateful to the Office of the Inspector General and the Attorney General for their work to hold these individuals accountable,” Lessard said.
The defendants are Aaron Anderson-Bush, 31; Amir Berry, 29; Antonio Vincent Ford, 32; Christopher L. Daye, 44; Derrick M. Smith, 40; J’mar Maurice Henderson, 44; Shanae N. Johnson, 32; and Stacey Djuan Moultrie, 64. They were charged with theft by deception, receiving stolen property and tampering with public records.
State prosecutors said they so far have charged 63 people throughout Pennsylvania for submitting fraudulent pandemic relief applications totaling approximately $3.1 million. Fraud investigations are ongoing, they said.
Anyone who fraudulently received pandemic relief benefits was urged by state prosecutors to voluntarily repay the money before they face criminal prosecution.
Those people can self-report to the state Department of Labor’s fraud hotline at 1-800-692-7469 or benefits.uc.pa.gov.
In a separate case late last year, federal authorities accused seven Philadelphia police dispatchers and one department clerk of filing fraudulent emergency pandemic disease claims that netted them a combined $88,000 in benefits before they were caught.
Since 2020, millions of Pennsylvania residents have lost work because of coronavirus shutdown orders and the extended economic impacts of the pandemic, forcing many to rely upon the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program until it ended in September 2021.