PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Criminals are targeting unemployment insurance programs across the country, stealing identities and filing fraudulent claims for benefits, and now lawmakers are demanding answers from federal investigators.
From February through May, there were 57 confirmed fraudulent claims in Arizona, according to Brett Bezio, a spokesperson for the Dept. of Economic Security.
Bezio said the agency is working to recoup money that was paid fraudulently, but he was not able to say how much money was lost.
Other states, including Washington and Rhode Island have reported thousands of recent fraudulent unemployment claims. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled federal investigators about the suspected fraud ring that's behind many of these claims.
"I think we're dealing with what may prove to be the crime of the decade, if not the crime of the century, in terms of the amount of money that was stolen through a common scheme, run very likely by foreign crooks," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).
According to U.S. Secret Service Assistant Director Michael D'Ambrosio, an alert the Secret Service released last month helped financial institutions stop half a billion in unemployment fraud, and the agency said it was able to recover $30 million in fraudulent claims for Michigan.
"We will continue to work very diligently on these cases, one to identify, two to recover the funds, and then eventually prosecute these individuals for this activity," D'Ambrosio told lawmakers.
Bezio said DES receives regular fraud updates from the U.S. Department of Labor.
"This ongoing partnership affords states the opportunity to collectively share information and techniques in an effort to address fraud that may target the unemployment insurance and the CARES Act programs," Bezio said in an email.