CHICAGO, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Officials said 32 Chicago-area residents were charged separately with defrauding Illinois' unemployment insurance department of a total of nearly $874,000.
The state Department of Employment Security Wednesday said in each case, the defendants allegedly falsely said they were eligible for benefits by underreporting their income or claiming to be unemployed, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Twenty-seven of the defendants face charges of felony theft of federal funds, and five face misdemeanor theft counts in 32 separate criminal grand jury indictments filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Each defendant was charged with falsely certifying their continuing eligibility in applying for unemployment insurance benefits, and fraudulently collecting payments while gainfully employed in various kinds of employment, the Justice Department said.
The offices of the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which conducted the criminal investigations based on IDES referrals of suspected fraud, announced the charges.
"When a person is not entitled to use these benefits, and they mislead and misuse the system, they jeopardize the integrity of a program meant for honest and deserving families," said Thomas P. Brady, inspector in charge of Chicago's U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Each defendant faces paying restitution. The felony theft counts carry a maximum sentence of a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison, and the misdemeanor theft counts carry a maximum sentence of a $100,000 fine and a year in prison.