COLUMBUS, Ohio — The State of Ohio is partnering with Google to conduct data analytics on outstanding unemployment claims to find and pull likely fraudulent claims, and prioritize the processing of legitimate claims, Governor Mike DeWine announced Thursday.
Ohio’s unemployment and pandemic unemployment systems have been hit by hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud in recent months, with $330 million in benefits paid to fraudsters as of February 2021, and about 7,400 claims flagged for potential fraud in just the last week.
“To ensure Ohioans have immediate access to unemployment funds as quickly as possible, Ohio has signed an agreement with Google to conduct data analytics on all outstanding claims,” DeWine said.
The private sector group will drill down on the state’s data by “leveraging a large universe of data points, claimed markers and patterns of fraud,” pulling out likely fraudulent claims and allowing the state’s adjudicators to prioritize and quickly process the legitimate outstanding claims, DeWine said.
The governor also announced that David DeVillers, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, will join the state’s teams as a law enforcement expert and liaison between the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and local, state and federal law enforcement.
“He has a unique background in complex investigations and a background in dealing with matters with international components and connections,” DeWine said. “We're very happy to have him on board.”
Kristin Kemper, the co-owner of Kemper House, an assisted living facility that cares for patients with Alzheimer's and dementia, said she is skeptical of the state's new efforts to start cracking down on fraud.
"How quick is that going to be?" she said. "I would hope that it wouldn’t be an empty promise."
So far, she said Kemper House has received more than two dozen notices from ODJFS involving fraudulent unemployment claims.
She said Ohio still paid out some of fake claims. Despite her attorney's efforts to notify state officials the claimants were never employed by her, still work for her, or were terminated.
"We wrote fraudulent claim. We sent it in and you (ODJFS) allowed it. So how can I trust that you’re really going to crack down this time?" Kemper said.
ODJFS said it has received 252,000 reports of identity theft related to unemployment fraud since the middle of January.