Maitland company targeted in state unemployment claims scheme

Owner says 18 people listed never worked for her

MAITLAND, Fla. – The latest version of unemployment fraud showed up in the files of a Central Florida commercial real estate company as 18 people filed claims for a company they never worked for.

Amy Calandrino, founding principal of Maitland’s Beyond Commercial, says she first caught 12 of the bogus claims in January when she checked her Department of Economic Opportunity account.

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“I can count on one hand the number of folks that have previously been with my organization,” Calandrino told News 6. “I’m a pretty small operation so I would know right away.”

Calandrino said she was never notified by the DEO that unemployment insurance claims had been filed against her company.

The married mother of two had contracted COVID-19 and delayed contacting the DEO last month. Then, last week, she said she discovered another six names, all claiming they had been laid off by her company.

Calandrino said the salaries were all round numbers. In one case, a woman with the last name Lopez claimed to have earned exactly $20,000 in less than a year.

“I would have known that,” Calandrino said, laughing. “You don’t usually get paid an exact round figure like that.”

She said she filed rejections for all 18 claims with the DEO and told News 6 she wanted her story told because the same names may be used in similar schemes against other Florida companies.

A source familiar with the case said all 18 claims were filed “within minutes of each other” and that the DEO security team locked the claims to ensure no funds were issued.

Investigators are not sure if the names and social security numbers were stolen or if a group of people are working together to collect unemployment benefits under the pretense that they were laid off by various employers.

News 6 has shared the information with the Orlando division of U.S. Secret Service to determine if the people listed have filed additional unemployment claims against the state.

Calandrino said if she had not caught the claims online, she would have been “blindsided.”

“For me, I understand the negative impact,” she said. “For me, it gets charged to your account and it will affect my (unemployment insurance) rate. It’s going to affect my bottom line.”

According to the Secret Service, unemployment fraud has cost the state of Florida roughly $2 million.

As of Feb. 21, the DEO has paid 2,448,450 claimants more than $31.9 billion ($31,955,090,158). Over 5.8 million (5,898,772) unique claims have been processed, representing 99.7% of unique claims submitted.

If you have an unemployment issue, email or text the words “Make Ends Meet” along with your unemployment issue to 407-676-7428.

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.