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Posted at 05:20 PM ET, 06/14/2012

D.C. sues workers said to have illegally cashed unemployment checks


Nathan said in April he’d pursue civil lawsuits. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
The District has sued 13 current and former government employees said to have collected unemployment benefits while working their city jobs.

The lawsuits, brought this week by Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, collectively seek repayment of about $100,000 in city funds. Two of the 13 are accused of cashing more than $13,000 in illicit checks; the others are said to have taken lesser amounts.

The lawsuits come four months after Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) announced that investigations had identified about 130 former and current city workers who had illegally collected unemployment checks. Nathan and other city officials pledged at the time to pursue criminal and civil charges against the offenders.

In April, the Gray administration announced that it had fired 61 employees in connection with the fraud investigation, which deals with payments going back to 2008.

The Washington Post reviewed 10 lawsuits, filed in D.C. Superior Court’s civil division. Seven of those defendants are District residents; the remainder live in Prince George’s County. All have been charged with three civil counts — receiving unemployment benefit without entitlement, unjust enrichment and conversion — after failing to repay the city after being notified of their ill-gotten gains.

Court filings do not indicate which city agencies the accused worked in. Nathan said in February that several of the most egregious offenders were school bus drivers and workers at the University of the District of Columbia.

Besides the 10 civil division cases, another three workers face action in the court’s small claims division, for matters concerning less than $5,000.

In all the cases, the city is seeking repayment of the unemployment money plus attorney’s fees and other costs. Nathan’s office cannot bring criminal prosecutions in most cases, only civil suits; the D.C. Office of the Inspector General is determining whether some cases should be referred to federal prosecutors for criminal charges.

City officials said when first revealing the fraud that safeguards had been put into place to prevent any such payments in the future.

Gray applauded the lawsuits in a statement: “Those who have defrauded the District government must be held accountable for their actions,” he said.

By  |  05:20 PM ET, 06/14/2012

 
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