ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state of New Mexico reported this week there was $250 million in unemployment overpayments. More than $100 million of that was fraud. KRQE News 13 has obtained a federal court search warrant showing how federal agencies are investigating a group creating dozens of fraudulent accounts.
The investigation started on Solano Drive NE when a UPS driver dropped off a package in August of last year. A neighbor told the driver no one lived at the residence so the driver took the package. A car followed the vehicle and offered $4,000 to the UPS driver to give them the package. The driver called authorities and inside the packages were unemployment credit cards.
“We really need to ramp up on fraud detection on some of these new programs. If you consider our fraud detection effort as being a net right and really capturing stuff flowing down that river, some of the new programs that were rolled out just didn’t–they essentially created a hole in that net,” said acting New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department Secretary Ricky Serna.
Federal agencies began looking at other claims associated with the address on Solano Drive. They tracked the debit cards to ATM’s that were used and got pictures of the people using them. “The problem is the bad people are hurting the good people and that’s what we really need to fix in our system,” said Sen. George Munoz.
Homeland Security was able to identify 65 suspected fraudulent unemployment accounts. They were discovered through common addresses, suspected names of victims and tracking the I-P addresses when they applied online. “There’s essentially the elements of the perfect storm that really created a situation where the department was really reactioning (sic) to a lot of what was coming all at once,” Serna said.
HSI contacted six people who had accounts who said they never applied for insurance benefits. They were even able to track down two of the people who had signed up for benefits, who were actually dead. A lot of the fake accounts created were from Texas. “Additionally there is widespread fraud and we just learned today there is an alarming, growing rate of identity theft happening and they don’t expect to be able to address these concerns for New Mexicans in the immediate future,” Sen. Crystal Diamond said.
New Mexico Probation and Parole went to a house on Penn Ave. SE to check up on Andrew Shanin, the fed’s prime suspect. He is on probation for fraudulent credit care convictions in Texas. They found him in possession of meth and Xanax. He was arrested and charged for the drugs. Probation and Parole found spreadsheets with people’s personal information that matched some of the fraudulent accounts.
So far, no one has been charged in this case. In the search warrant, the suspects joked about how much money they had in the accounts. One totaled more than $17,000.