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Because He Could

Businessman fired, leaving his office with his personal effects
Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

During the pandemic, Robert James Waff devised a scheme to a devise a scheme to defraud the California Employment Development Department (EDD) for no more reason than that he could. Starting in June 2020 to September 2020, Waff applied electronically for COVID-19 unemployment benefits through the California EDD website and submitted a false address, false employment history and false income. From the comfort of his own home during his lunch break from his actual job. All while In Utah! Waff then began collecting unemployment benefits despite never having worked in California. Bet California wished they hadn’t canceled their fraud detection contract in 2016 to save money.

By the time the pandemic arrived, state unemployment insurance programs were already vulnerable to fraud. Administration cuts to the federal Labor Department’s inspector general’s office shrunk the ranks of investigators by a quarter of their size and also turned down proposals to support information sharing among other state and federal agencies. In its urgency to get cash to people with no work, Congress also chose not to require such verification in the PUA program. It requested only self-certification of eligibility and no proof of income or identity. And successful applicants could get the extra $600 weekly payment, too. And successful fraudsters could get a lot more.

Waff also assisted three others, who never worked in California, to apply electronically for the same benefits by supplying them with the same false information, prosecutors said. He then had debit cards mailed to his address in Utah. In return for his assistance, the three individuals paid Waff a cash portion of their unemployment benefits.

Luckily, the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force is working to right all the wrongs. On March 1, 2024, Waff pled guilty to unemployment fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 15 at the Orrin G. Hatch U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City.

Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Scammer admits to collecting $100,000-plus in California jobless benefits while employed in Utah” published by Gephardt Daily on March 1, 2024
A California man Thursday admitted to scamming more than $100,000 in California unemployment benefits while living and working in Utah.

Robert James Waff, 50, of Sacramento pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting wire fraud which led to defrauding the federal government of approximately $114,066 in unemployment benefits during COVID-19 while living and working in Utah, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah announced. “He also admitted to aiding and abetting others to fraudulently apply and pay him as compensation.”

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