Two Buffalo Grove residents were among 32 charged with fraudulently obtaining thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced Wednesday.
In each case, the defendants allegedly lied about their eligibility for benefits by either falsely claiming to be unemployed or underreporting their income, and fraudulently obtained benefits ranging from $19,399 to $38,798. Altogether, the charges allege that the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) was defrauded out of nearly $874,000.
Twenty-seven of the defendants were charged with felony theft of federal funds, and five were charged with misdemeanor theft counts in 32 separate criminal informations or grand jury indictments filed as recently as Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
According to the charges, each defendant applied for unemployment insurance benefits, falsely certified their continuing eligibility to receive payments, and fraudulently collected benefits to which they were not entitled while gainfully employed in various occupations.
The Buffalo Grove residents charged were Manusya Heinrichs, 44, who faces a misdemeanor for allegedly defrauding the IDES of $27,950, and Steven Steinberg, 61. Steinberg was charged with and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. He paid full restitution of the $19,680 and was sentenced to one year of probation, authorities said.
In Illinois, unemployment insurance benefits typically are funded primarily by contributions from employers, with the IDES’ administrative costs funded primarily by the federal government. During periods of high unemployment, however, the U.S. Treasury also funds unemployment payments.
The charges were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General; and Thomas P. Brady, Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General assisted with the investigation of one defendant, a mail carrier. The federal agencies conducted the criminal investigations following referrals of suspected fraud from IDES.
“The unemployment insurance program is intended to provide financial assistance to workers who are unemployed due to no fault of their own. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who allegedly engage in fraudulent schemes against this and other Department of Labor programs,” Vanderberg said.
“Unemployment insurance benefits provide assistance to families during difficult times. 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. There are consequences for committing unemployment insurance fraud and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service takes this alleged criminal activity very seriously,” Brady said.
In each case, restitution is mandatory and the felony theft counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the misdemeanor theft counts carry a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The indictments and informations contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt.
The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.