As if the economy is not tanking enough, it's come to light that state officials have paid over 1,100 inmates more than $2 million in unemployment benefits while they are in jail. The state involved in this is Illinois. That's right, the same state that gave us Barack Obama.

The Associated Press reports,

One Cook County inmate collected almost $43,000, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, though most were paid far less. Nearly all of the fraud occurred in mid-2012 from county jails across the state.

Department officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that many of the recipients could face charges, though some may have been paid too little to make prosecution worthwhile. The department says it will also garnish tax returns where it can to recover money.

“Assuming that the individual knew that benefits were being paid for him, we would first start with that individual, take a look at the circumstances, take a look at the length of the fraud and take a look at their willingness to cooperate in repaying the dollars, and we would consider all of that,” department spokesman Greg Rivara said.

According to the report, most of the recipients were in Cook County where 296 inmates are believed to have collected more than $722,000. Other counties in which inmates were running the same scam include the following:

— Will County, where 21 inmates collected $85,159;

— Winnebago County — which has one of Illinois highest unemployment rates at 12 percent in August — where 20 inmates collecting $84,533;

— Lake County, with 20 inmates who collected $76,017;

— Peoria County, where 21 inmates collected $72,350.

The Chicago Sun Times reports that the Illinois Department of Employment Security "announced in July that it would begin comparing lists of jail inmates from around the state with rolls of unemployment recipients after a legislator from southern Illinois, Rep. John Cavaletto, said he had heard about potential fraud among inmates at a jail in his district. An inmate had used the phone check-in system that the Department of Employment Security allows people collecting unemployment to use to certify that they’re looking for work and available to do it. Internet check-in is also available."

The article goes on to report,

Department officials and two attorney assigned to the department by the state Attorney General’s office are now looking at inmates to decide who could be prosecuted and whether those cases might be handled by county prosecutors or by the state, said department spokesman Greg Rivara.

“That’s one of the things I think that needs to be worked out,” he said.

And the department will continue checking for potential fraud among jail inmates.

Andy Shaw, of the watchdog group The Better Government Association, said picking and choosing which cases to prosecute based on dollar figures makes sense.

“You have to determine the severity of it: was it one check too many or hundreds of checks too many?” he said. “The attorney general ought to charge people that have blatantly violated the law because that has the potential to be a deterrent.”

Well this is in part due to Obama's drastic removal of work requirements in the Clinton Welfare Reform Act. Thanks Barack!

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