New Mexico enterprise proprietor struggles to battle unemployment fraud
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – A local business owner said he alerted the state when someone fraudulently applied for unemployment under his name. However, he found it difficult to get anyone to listen to him. Kevin Lawton owns Futons & Frames on Menaul near Carlisle. “We opened in 1991,” he said. “Well, we’ve been here a long time.”
Lawton received a letter from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions earlier this month suspecting an employee he had to lay off in March when the pandemic hit had filed for unemployment. Then he looked closer and saw that the name on the claim was his own. “I’m not an employee. I’m so easy to find, ”Lawton explained.
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The situation went from funny to frustrating, Lawton said. He thought he could sort it all out with a quick phone call. “That’s not what happened,” he said, shaking his head.
When Lawton called someone, they asked for his information to verify his identity. “And she’s like, ‘Oh, that’s the opposite of what we put on Kevin Lawton.’ I’m going, ‘Stop. That’s me!’ “
In the meantime the letters continued. “I get another very thin letter. Now I’m sure it’s done, ”Lawton said. “And again it wasn’t.”
A letter he received last Friday confirmed that Kevin Lawton, or at least whoever claims to be him, was eligible for benefits. “You look at this, just in shock, it’s me. I do not need money. I work seven days a week, ”he said.
Bill McCamley, Secretary for Workforce Solutions, said unemployment fraud is very common during the COVID-19 crisis. “I’m not going to lie to you. It’s a problem and it really pisses me off that these thieves are out there. “
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McCamley said New Mexico has reclaimed more than $ 17 million given to criminals since the pandemic began. For example, between May and June, the state found that more than 480 people illegally applied for unemployment in prison.
“But the pressure on our agency is to get money out the door to help people in these really tough times. There is also pressure to stop this theft. So we have to sort of balance these things, ”said McCamley.
KRQE News 13 asked the state if anyone was looking at Lawton’s case. Then, about an hour before that story aired, Lawton called with an update. He said he was notified that the account is now frozen and is under investigation.
Workforce Solutions announced that there are around 6,500 accounts suspended through Thursday for further verification. Anyone needing to report a fraudulent claim can email [email protected] or call the fraud line at 505243-7283.