LOCAL NEWS

Former state unemployment worker arrested, charged for alleged role in payment scheme

Sep 24, 2021, 3:07 PM | Updated: Sep 27, 2021, 7:59 am
Employment Security, audit reports, unemployment tax, unemployment suspect...
A sign at the headquarters for Washington state's Employment Security Department at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

A former employee with the Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) was arrested and charged on Friday, for allegedly defrauding the state out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in jobless benefits.

Inslee names new head of oft-maligned Employment Security Department

A resident of Moses Lake, 47-year-old Reyes De La Cruz was hired by ESD in April 2020 to work as an intake agent to “deal with the crush of filings for pandemic unemployment benefits.” Investigators claim that he took advantage of his access to the ESD database to orchestrate fraudulent payments to himself and others.

First, he allegedly used the personal information of people in the database to have unemployment claims paid out to debit cards that he then had mailed to multiple Moses Lake addresses, where he would later retrieve them. He was terminated in October 2020, but federal investigators say he still attempted to “restart claims payments to these debit cards to take advantage of additional federal pandemic benefits.”

He was also said to have taken bribes from family, friends, or acquaintances to distribute unemployment payments using false entries, with some receiving tens of thousands of dollars at a time. A portion of those payments would then be paid back to De La Cruz.

Investigators believe he may have also made threats to terminate claims to those people if they refused to pay him his share.

De La Cruz was charged Friday for six counts of wire fraud, nine counts of bribery of an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, one count of extortion, and four counts of aggravated identity theft.

The DOJ estimates that the scheme resulted in the fraudulent distribution of at least $360,000 in pandemic-related unemployment payments, $130,000 of which is alleged to have personally enriched De La Cruz.

State Auditor responds to ESD’s claim that audit numbers are ‘inflated’

The ESD came under fire in May 2020 for a separate unrelated instance of unemployment fraud, where hundreds of millions of dollars were paid out to fraudsters using stolen identities. That led to significant delays for thousands of Washingtonians who had applied for jobless benefits at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

A subsequent audit found that the ESD’s internal controls hadn’t been strong enough to protect against fraud, revealing that an automated process designed to flag suspicious claims had been out of commission.

Local News

(Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images)...
Frank Sumrall

Mayor’s search for permanent Police Chief looms over Seattle amid depleting law enforcement numbers

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell recently consulted with a hiring firm as the decision to choose the next Chief of Police heats up.
2 days ago
Seattle Sun...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Sunny skies, warm temperatures forecast for western Washington this weekend

Sunny skies and warm temperatures are forecast for much of western Washington, with some areas expected to reach temps in the 70s.
2 days ago
Student STEM...
Nicole Jennings

From athletes to mathletes: STEM Signing Day shines light on WA scholars

STEM Signing Day gives stellar science, technology, engineering, and math scholars a chance to shine in the same way as high school athletes.
2 days ago
Prison 900x506...
MyNorthwest Staff

Governor Inslee cancels parole determination for triple murderer

Governor Inslee has cancelled an order that granted parole to Timothy Pauley, who had been incarcerated for three counts of first degree murder in 1981.
2 days ago
revive I-5...
MyNorthwest Staff

Revive I-5, Montlake Bridge closure will cause traffic issues this weekend

The sunny forecast will put Seattleites in a great mood this weekend, but the traffic won't thanks to repairs to I-5 and the Montlake Bridge.
2 days ago
Police follow protesters as they move through the city during racial justice protests on November 3...
Hanna Scott

Report on 2020 protests recommends new training for SPD, debunks “mob psychology”

SPD’s approach to the 2020 protests underutilized de-escalation through dialogue and relied on indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Former state unemployment worker arrested, charged for alleged role in payment scheme