Prosecutors accuse Philly workers of COVID-19 jobless fraud
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Eight Philadelphia government employees lied that they were unemployed in order to recieve pandemic jobless benefits, prosecutors said in announcing criminal charges Thursday.
The attorney general’s office said the city workers collectively were paid more than $300,000 in pandemic unemployment assistance in 2020. Individuals collected between $17,000 and $63,000, prosecutors said.
They were accused of theft, receiving stolen property and tampering with public records in charges filed Wednesday in a Harrisburg district court.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said prosecutors do not believe the eight defendants are connected. They worked for the city as asphalt rakers, roadwork laborers, social work services managers and for the parks and recreation department.
A city spokesperson said seven of them are currently employed but the process of firing them is underway.
“These individuals didn’t just apply for (the) assistance once and got the money,” Shapiro said at a Philadelphia news conference Thursday. “Instead they had to go online, week after week, and reaffirm that they were unemployed due to COVID-19.”
Only two of the defendants answered calls to phone numbers listed in court records — one denied the allegations and the other declined to comment. Messages were left for three and the other three numbers were not working.
State prosecutors have so far charged 63 people in Pennsylvania with pandemic unemployment fraud worth about $3.1 million.
The attorney general’s office received a referral to investigate the allegations from the city’s inspector general in October 2021.