10,000 to 15,000 public employees may have illegally applied for PUA

By John McPhaul

Justice Secretary Inés Carrau estimated Monday that some 10,000 or 15,000 public employees in Puerto Rico may have illegally applied for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

“Since the PUA fraud was discovered, we at the Department of Justice have been working hand in hand with the Department of Labor [and Human Resources] and with the Puerto Rico Police [Bureau] to investigate the cases and be able to take them to court and recover the money that it has been obtained illegally,” Carrau said in a radio interview.

In the cases in which people return the money received illegally, Carrau said “that does not exclude them from us being able to take action investigating them and we can file charges, because the crime was actually committed.”

“If you fraudulently requested the PUA benefits with false information, you can be sure that if Justice investigates it, it will go to the final consequences in those cases,” the Justice secretary added.

Asked how her department is going to investigate thousands and thousands of individuals who may have requested the PUA illegally, Carrau said they are working to purge the list of public employees.

As an example, she said that regarding the complaint that Justice employees illegally requested the PUA, it was confirmed that none of the names of people who received the aid are working in the department.

Labor and Human Resources Secretary Carlos Rivera Santiago said meanwhile that his department has received more than $12.5 million in checks that people have returned because they requested the PUA but later realized that they did not qualify.

Rivera Santiago stated in an interview that between unemployment and other aid that the Labor and Human Resources Department has disbursed, “$5 billion has been distributed in Puerto Rico.”

He noted that public employees have been told on more than one occasion that they do not qualify for the PUA (or unemployment) “because they have not stopped collecting.” “Even if they have a second job they do not qualify for unemployment,” Rivera Santiago said.

“We have identified thousands of cases of public employees” who receive PUA without [the] right [to do so], the Labor and Human Resources secretary said.

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