Lear Workers' Layoff Scheme Foiled

August 10, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Eleven Grand Rapids Lear Corp. workers have been found guilty of unemployment insurance fraud for collecting more than $100,000 in benefits to which they were not entitled. Twenty-nine others face legal action from the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA).

According to UIA Director Sharon Bommarito, all 40 workers collected unemployment benefits while working fulltime at one of Lear’s Grand Rapids area facilities. The fraud began after periodic layoffs at Lear that typically occur in January and July. The workers filed for unemployment benefits during the layoffs, but continued to claim the benefits after the layoffs had ended.

The UIA became aware of the scheme through a call to its fraud hotline.

Convicted of defrauding the state’s UI program of $5,000 or more were Sylvester Banks, Linda Couturier, Vera Crawford, Desiree Howard, Tena McAllister, Ellen Marie Rodriguez, Julia Sanders, Michael Thompson, and Angela Torres, all of Grand Rapids, Heidi Schmuck of Grandville and Troy Allen Perkins of Greenville

The 11 fraudulently collected between $5,405 and $16,523 each in state jobless benefits. All have to repay the benefits they received and face fines, court costs and community service. The agency has received some $3,400 in restitution to date.

The 29 other cases involved smaller amounts of money ranging from $181 to $4,433. In total, these workers drew more than $70,000 in unemployment benefits.

“Maintaining the integrity of Michigan’s unemployment insurance program is a key priority for UIA,” stated David Plawecki, a deputy director with the state’s Department of Labor & Economic Growth. “Anyone attempting to defraud the UI system will be subject to financial and, possibly, criminal penalties — whether they are workers or employers.”    

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