Punish Fraudulent Benefit Applicants

Ninety-two people were caught submitting fraudulent claims for state unemployment compensation during the final three months of last year, according to Workforce West Virginia. Of that number, the agency requested warrants, presumably to prosecute the offenders, in just 31 cases, according to a news release.

And, the agency emphasized in a note at the end of its release, “Workforce West Virginia does not release the names of residents penalized for fraud.”

Why not? If the offenders have committed fraud against the state unemployment compensation program, they are guilty of crimes. Why not let their communities know who they are?

And again, if fraud was “detected” by 92 people, why were warrants requested for only about one-third of them? Fraud is a crime for which the offenders should be punished by more than the comparative slap on the wrist of denying them compensation for a 52-week period.

Crimes against government agencies and programs too often are viewed as inconsequential, in comparison to other offenses. Frequently, the only punishment meted out to offenders is to suspend government benefits.

But, according to Workforce West Virginia’s own press release, $83,226.32 “in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits” was recovered from the 92 people who were the subjects of its news release. At least that much was stolen from the program, assuming that Workforce West Virginia was able to make full recovery – and that is improbable. At least $83,226.32 was stolen from taxpayers – and from unemployed Mountain State residents with legitimate claims for compensation. We don’t know about you, but that sounds like serious crime to us. It’s time Workforce West Virginia began treating it that way.