Fulton County – On July 27, 2023, a Fulton County Grand Jury indicted eight former State of Georgia employees on a combined 8 counts of Violation of Georgia Employment Security Law (O.C.G.A. 34-8-256) and 79 counts of False Statements and Writings (O.C.G.A. 16-10-20) relating to the former employees’ applications and claiming of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic despite being employed full-time with the State of Georgia.
According to the charges contained in the indictment and other sources:
The UI program provides short-term financial assistance to eligible workers who are unemployed or partially unemployed through no fault of their own. The purpose of the program is to help bridge the gap between jobs by providing funds with which to purchase necessities. The intent is to reduce the financial burden of joblessness, while allowing individuals an opportunity to deliberately search for employment that matches their skills, training, and prior earning capability.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals entitled to UI benefits were also eligible for federal supplements. Notably, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program provided a supplement of $300 to $600 per week, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs extended the number of weeks that individuals could obtain UI.
Generally, individuals seeking to obtain UI benefits are required to file an application with the Georgia Department of Labor, and once approved to receive UI, answer questions on a weekly basis regarding their availability to work, their progress toward gaining employment, and any wages earned. If the individual is working, they are additionally required to disclose the amount of money they earned that week.
Each of the eight former employees are alleged to have falsified different aspects of their applications, weekly certifications, or a combination of both. Notably, each of the former employees were employed full-time with the State of Georgia during the entire period in which they claimed to be unemployed and failed to fully disclose their earnings. As of result of their applications and certifications, the eight employees received a total of approximately $170,931 in UI benefits and federal supplements.
“OIG has worked closely with DOL and the Attorney General’s Office in bringing this case for prosecution,” said Interim State Inspector General Nigel Lange. “Georgia public servants who seek to illegally further their own interests rather than those of the public they serve will be caught. These indictments send a clear message to any likeminded individuals. OIG is focused on reducing corruption in State government and relies upon the vigilance of its partner agencies to continue with the mission.”
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the state’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Georgia Office of the State Inspector General investigated these cases with assistance from the Georgia Department of Labor and United States Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General. The Georgia Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.
No further information about the investigation or the indictment will be released at this time.