Hundreds left without money after DES fraud mixup

Arizona Department of Economic Security
Posted at 7:58 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 00:20:22-04

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Economic Security has revealed to ABC15 that they closed down 28,000 bank accounts last weekend suspected of unemployment fraud.

They say it helped recover tens of millions of dollars, but the massive closure of accounts also caught some innocent filers in the net as well.

“I’m not getting an answer from them, they tell me different things every day,” said Brittany Diaz.

“They’re not taking any sense of urgency on it, they’re just whenever we get around to it we’ll get around to it,” said Michelle Spotts.

“I’ve called and they just said there’s nothing they can do,” said Taylor Dennis.

All three women are caught in the middle of a massive purge in fraudulent unemployment claims.

They are just a few of the dozens of people who reached out to us over the last week.

“We thought it was a mistake or like a glitch,” said Diaz.

Diaz is talking about the moment thousands of dollars in unemployment money suddenly disappeared overnight last Saturday.

Her Bank of America account was closed by the State of Arizona.

“That’s everything, I mean if we don’t have that money, I can’t afford anything, I can’t buy groceries, it’s really crucial,” said Diaz.

DES officials say last weekend, 28,000 accounts were closed as part of an initiative to eliminate fraud within the unemployment system.

They recouped more than $70 million in taxpayer money.

But we’re now learning about 3% of those accounts probably shouldn’t have been closed.

DES says nearly 1,000 people are now fighting to get them back open.

“I’m in Laughlin Nevada which is about maybe ten minutes from Bullhead City Arizona, a lot of us go across the river to work over there,” said Michelle Spotts.

Like Spotts, the loss of money seemed to only affect people who currently live out of state, but file for unemployment in Arizona due to work history.

Diaz used to work in Arizona but moved to Minnesota when she lost her job due to the pandemic.

“I’d already been getting payments, they had to verify with my employer, so how could it be fraud if they already verified who I was,” said Spotts.

They’re now tasked with proving their case again before they get the money returned.

“They told me I need to email my social security, a picture ID and a selfie,” said Spotts.

So she did. And so did Brittany Diaz and Taylor Dennis, along with every other document they required.

“People have families, they have bills to pay,” said Dennis who worked in Scottsdale, but moved in with family out of state after she lost her job.

None have been told when they’ll be getting the money back.

In fact, some have had to email and fax those same documents when DES workers were unable to locate the first copies they sent.

DES told ABC15 in a statement they are working quickly to validate and reactivate those types of accounts, but did not provide a timeline, leaving many now wondering how to make ends meet.

“I have bills to pay, it’s scary, I’m really nervous, I’m really nervous I won’t get it back,” said Diaz.