News and Press Releases

Operation Double Dip Results in Charges against Ten Broward Residents for Defrauding Federal Unemployment Insurance Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2012

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Richard L. Walker, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (Atlanta Regional Office), and Hunting F. Deutsch, Executive Director, State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), announce the filing of federal charges against ten individuals in connection with Operation Double Dip. Operation Double Dip focused on individuals fraudulently collecting unemployment insurance benefits to which they were not entitled.

The ten individuals charged with mail and wire fraud are Haley K. Barnett, 34, of Pembroke Pines, Reyna Duarte-Valles, 49, of Tamarac, Clarence Calvin Griffin, 66, of Miramar, Gina Diane Innocent, 41, of Deerfield Beach, Arold Joseph Michel, 52, of Pembroke Pines, Randy Millard, 50, of Pembroke Pines, Robert Ray Orange, 46, of Lauderhill, Victoria Ordunez, 40, of Sunrise, Linda Ann Phillips, 40, of Lauderhill, and Jennifer E. Weissman, 37, of Sunrise, FL. All of the defendants appeared in federal district court for their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judges this week. If convicted of mail or wire fraud, the defendants each face a possible statutory maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, to be followed by a term of supervised release of up to three years.

More specifically, the defendants are each charged with mail or wire fraud in connection with the fraudulent receipt of unemployment insurance benefits administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The overpayments in each of the cases allegedly ranged from $10,000 to $15,000.

“Lying in order to collect unemployment compensation to which one is not entitled is a federal offense,” said United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “Those who defraud the unemployment insurance program undermine an important safety net for those who really need it. Cases involving theft of public funds are a high priority for my office, particularly in these tough economic times when government resources are limited.”

“Today’s charges demonstrate the Office of Inspector General’s commitment to safeguarding the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Program,” said Richard L. Walker, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Atlanta Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

According to the charging documents, the Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI), now known as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is the agency responsible for the oversight of the Unemployment Compensation Program within the State of Florida. An applicant for unemployment compensation benefits is required to initially complete an application, and thereafter file claims on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, by telephone or the internet, certifying that the information the applicant supplied regarding their eligibility for benefits is accurate. In reliance upon information supplied by an applicant, AWI authorizes the State of Florida Department of Financial Services to send unemployment compensation funds in the form of either: (a) warrants (checks) mailed to the applicant; or (b) direct deposits into the applicant’s bank account via electronic funds transfers. These defendants allegedly lied regarding their eligibility to receive unemployment compensation benefits.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, U.S. Department of Labor, and the Department of Economic Opportunity, State of Florida. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie E. Rucoba.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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