FloridaCommerce Press Releases

DEO Partners with Sen. Stargel, Rep. La Rosa to Fight Fraud

Dec 21, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio, Senator Kelli Stargel, and Representative Mike La Rosa announced new legislation filed today – the “DEO Cybercrime Prevention Act” (SB 1216 and HB 1017) – to fight identity theft and fraud in the state’s reemployment assistance program.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “Identity theft and subsequent public-benefits fraud have reached crisis levels. DEO has become a national leader in fighting this fraud, and with additional funding and legislative changes, we can continue to save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Senator Stargel and Representative La Rosa understand the urgency of this issues and we appreciate their leadership.”

In the past two years, DEO’s state-of-the-art technology has prevented more than 135,000 fraudulent claims for benefits from being processed. Had full benefits been paid on these claims, $558 million in taxpayer dollars would have been stolen.

“I am pleased to sponsor a bill that will help prevent fraud in Florida’s reemployment assistance program,” said Sen. Stargel. “This bill will strengthen the ability of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to fight identity theft, increase penalties for criminals who are stealing from those in need, and protect taxpayers’ dollars.”

“I appreciate the leadership of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in tackling fraud in the unemployment system,” said Rep. La Rosa. “I am proud to sponsor a bill that will protect Floridians from identity theft and help prosecute those who are stealing our tax dollars.”

DEO’s legislation includes additional resources for DEO and legal authorizations to prevent and fight public benefits fraud in Florida, including:

  • Create a criminal investigations unit of sworn officers and investigators to focus on data analytics, utilize cutting-edge technology to investigate and build cases, and coordinate with local and federal law enforcement in a multi-faceted approach to fighting criminals who use identity theft to fraudulently file for reemployment assistance.
  • Allow access to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle’s DAVID System for photo identification from the driver’s license database to validate reemployment assistance claims.
  • Increase penalties for those who fraudulently apply for benefits.
  • Streamline the process to recover benefits received through fraud.
  • Continue implementation of the highly successful FIRRE Fraud Initiative Rating and Rules Engine) system. Since initial implementation in 2014, FIRRE has successfully detected more than 135,000 fraudulent claims and prevented payment of $558 million in potential fraudulent claims.

Florida Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President David Hart said: “The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports the efforts of the Department of Economic Opportunity to reduce fraud and safeguard the unemployment system through the ‘DEO Cybercrime Prevention Act.’   Reducing fraud will help lower the cost of unemployment compensation for businesses across this state, and ensures that benefits are available for those who need it.”

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said: “Florida TaxWatch applauds the Department of Economic Opportunity for being a watchdog on taxpayer dollars. Fraud in public benefits systems hurts all of us and criminals do not deserve the hard-earned benefits that unemployment provides to those who truly need it.”

The Florida Police Chiefs Association President Chief Brett Railey of the Winter Park Police Department said: “The Florida Police Chiefs Association supports this bill’s focus on investigating and prosecuting unemployment fraud.  Criminals cannot be allowed to siphon off public dollars.”

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