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Kansas ramps up effort to stop unemployment insurance fraud

In the past five years, the Kansas Department of Labor has investigated nearly 21,000 potential cases of unemployment insurance fraud.

That effort has resulted in $23 million being recovered and returned to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, a $640 million fund that employers pay into.

Kansas Labor Secretary Lana Gordon is touring the state to raise public awareness of unemployment insurance fraud, and to urge people to report it at stopthedrainnow.com. The effort is funded by a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Gordon said the fraud, which is a felony, can be committed in a number of ways, including by people who find employment or start a business but still claim unemployment, or through theft of Social Security numbers. She said the department even investigated cases where people were in prison but were collecting unemployment with the help of a spouse filing claims for them.

The department now has a database of jail inmates from across the state that it can cross-check against its database of unemployment recipients.

The fraud investigation and prevention efforts really ramped up in 2013 after legislation was enacted allowing the labor department “to have full law enforcement powers” and prosecute cases of unemployment insurance fraud, she said.

The labor department now has law enforcement officers working for its fraud unit from offices in Topeka, Wichita and Lenexa.

“That helps us be more effective in combating fraud,” Gordon said.

The department also has bolstered its information technology systems and trained its workers to spot fraud on unemployment insurance claims.

“I think we’re more effective in identifying it,” she added.

Gordon didn’t immediately have available the total number of fraud cases the department has successfully prosecuted or settled in the past five years.

She added most Kansans accessing unemployment benefits do so legally.

“The majority of people do it the right way,” Gordon said.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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