April 16, 2021

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Fraud to PUA grows | government

The Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH) has begun receiving checks from people who they understand are not eligible for funds from the Pandemic Unemployment Program (PUA), which is under investigation for alleged fraud cases.

Reports of arrests in recent weeks, associated with people who have attempted to cash checks with false identifications, and allegations of investigations by local and federal agencies have caused fear, including from people who have received help after requesting it.

This was expressed by the secretary of the DTRH, Carlos Rivera Santiago, to questions from EL VOCERO, who assured that they cooperate with local and federal authorities in investigations that have produced arrests, but not the filing of charges against the defendants.

Until now, as reported by this media, there have been 38 arrests for fraud against the PUA, 34 complaints and $ 199,950 in fed funds recovered erales. That was the figure until yesterday.

"Yes, I can tell you that many checks are returned daily here, but they are for citizens who did request and understand now that they are not entitled to the benefit or that they understand that they are not creditors of the benefit" , said Rivera Santiago.

In social networks and people who have communicated to this medium, they have also denounced that they have not requested the PUA funds and have received the aid. On the contrary, there are thousands of cases with the so-called “controversial points” that have not been able to benefit from the program, although in principle they may be eligible.

Rivera Santiago indicated that internally they are taking controls to guard the systems and documentation so that no one, other than employees, has access to and avoids any situation that puts applicants' funds and information at risk.

Growing figures

Preliminary figures for complaints to the Bureau of The Police for identity theft related to the PUA total 12 and are distributed in the police areas of San Juan, Carolina, Bayamón, Caguas and Rincón, according to the lieutenant of the Division of Robberies and Fraud to Banking Institutions, José Ayala.

"They (the complainants) are alleging that they are entering the page of the Department of Labor and request the services and the system denies them because they already have a request with training them. We have arrested several people with this mode of operation and identity theft to change checks, "he said.

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Thousands of unemployed people are waiting to resolve" controversial points "in their applications to access the PUA. [19659013]> Brandon Cruz González / EL VOCERO

To this, the secretary commented that “here (at Work) it happens in the same way that it happens in banking institutions, if someone takes and steals someone's identity, it could apply to banking institutions, credit cards and in the case of the Department of Labor it is not different, "he said.

He explained that in the case of PUA the applicants answer forms under oath under penalty of perjury and that, in addition, they submit other documents officials, such as Form 480, the return or the merchant registration.

“In the same way that identity theft is done with bank accounts and many transactions with credit cards. The person may enter and use another person's information or request false documentation. In the same way that happens, when there are people who have used false driver's licenses to change checks. There are different modalities, "he detailed.

He said that" unfortunately, criminal organizations use the ingenuity of some people to defraud or commit some type of crime ", and -in part- is what has been evidenced with the PUA, which also it has happened in other jurisdictions in the United States.

Ayala, for her part, stressed that her call to citizens is to always be aware of their personal information. "In addition, that they verify, call the Work via the Internet or personally and then make a complaint related to identity theft," he added.

The situation with the PUA is such that agents from the Bureau of Stolen Vehicles (NVH) intervened this week in a house in the Campanillas neighborhood, Toa Baja, where some 60 files with fraudulent applications for the program were used. Computers and a printer were also used to forge driver's licenses, which were used to cash checks.

That intervention was followed by the receipt of confidences. A 50-year-old man, who had been convicted of a case in the federal forum, was arrested in the home.

Internal faults?

Given the situation that has been increasing with the arrests and complaints from people who understand qualify and do not receive aid, EL VOCERO questioned whether internal flaws have been detected in the agency in the management of the PUA.

Rivera Santiago said that they have not identified internal flaws in the agency that lead to some of the difficulties with the program to help the unemployed.

Meanwhile, the case of minors who also have applied for the benefits of the program with false identifications remains pending. This includes the information that has come out of alleged students from the Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola. This is expected by the action of the authorities to identify possible participants in this situation.

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