Viera public defender’s office secretary reclaims $5K lotto prize lost to overpayment issue

Sonya Edwards says she never received a notice from the state

VIERA, Fla. – The secretary for the misdemeanor division of the public defender’s office in Viera lost a hefty $5,000 lottery prize to pay part of an unemployment overpayment issued by the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Sonya Edwards told News 6 she had not collected unemployment benefits in years and had never received notice of an overdue debt to the state.

“I work at the public defender’s office (Blaise Trettis). They check your background,” she told News 6. “I just want my money.”

Edwards said she contacted Make Ends Meet on the advice of someone waiting in the Florida Lottery Office in Altamonte Springs the day she was handed a special circumstances notice indicating she owed the state money for unemployment benefits.

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The letter indicated she would be advised of the outcome in four to six weeks. That was Feb. 10.

News 6 contacted the DEO to present a letter from the public defender’s office confirming her current employment and that she had not filed for benefits while employed there.

It turns out the confusion was triggered by unemployment benefits collected for two weeks in 2008.

A DEO investigator found a $1,500 overpayment paid while Edwards was employed with United Retail Inc., a women and teen apparel store with locations in 36 states.

Edwards told News 6 she had never heard of United Retail and had not collected unemployment benefits that year.

She said her employment resume included Washington Mutual Bank and then Chase Bank during the time the state records show she collected unemployment benefits.

The DEO worked with News 6 and Make Ends Meet and found that there was an overpayment, but it had been waived.

“There’s great news here for Ms. Edwards,” Leigh McGowan, press secretary for the DEO, wrote in part in an email to News 6. “She will receive her Florida Lottery winnings and her reemployment assistance overpayment has been resolved.”

To learn more about how to resolve your reemployment assistance overpayment, click here.

If you have a financial, consumer or unemployment issue, just email makeendsmeet@wkmg,com or text the words “Make Ends Meet” along with the issue to 407-676-7428.

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.