FOX 5 continues to push for answers after the Maryland Department of Labor froze unemployment benefits for thousands of people following the discovery of a fraud ring in July.
On July 4, people realized the money on their state-issued unemployment debit card was gone and some say they still have not had benefits reinstated even after providing required proof of identity.
“I sent my driver’s license, passport, social security card,” said Holli Tinari.
“I’ve sent numerous emails over the course of like 6 to 8 weeks,” said Ronald Horton. “ I haven't gotten any responses.”
“I’ve turned in everything and they tell me, ‘You just have to wait until the investigation is over,’” said Donald Gallop.
The identities of the fraudsters who tried to scam Maryland out of half a billion dollars in unemployment benefits remain unknown and no arrests have been announced.
Initially, Gov. Larry Hogan said “a few” real people were caught up in the fraud case. For weeks, FOX 5 has tried to get the actual number, but it’s information the labor department refuses to provide.
Reporter Lindsay Watts asked Hogan about the frozen claims at a press conference on August 27.
“We’ve resolved 75 percent of them so far,” Hogan said.
Hogan and a labor department spokeswoman said the state has continued to find fraud and about 40 percent of those resolved cases were fraudulent. But neither would provide the actual numbers.
“I know this is a very important case for you,” Hogan said. “If you find somebody that says, ‘I haven’t got my check,’ please let us know. We’ll reach out to them and say, ‘Let’s sit down and help you solve your problem.’ But about 40 percent of them are fraudulent and the other ones, maybe some of them are not ever going to get paid.”
Those waiting are also looking for answers.
“I Google it all the time and that’s how I found you, watching what you’ve done to help everybody,” Tinari told Watts.
“Sll the effort were putting in, it just seems like it’s for nothing,” said Horton.
Last month, labor department spokeswoman Fallon Pearre said “hundreds” of claims are being verified and reinstated every day. And the continued fraud reinforces the need to “manually review these suspicious claims.”
Unemployment fraud has been rampant across the country and just last week, the U.S. Department of Labor provided $100 million to states to combat it. Maryland will receive nearly $2.5 million according to a press release.