Volusia grandmother: DEO says it could take 10 years to return my stolen jobless money

Make Ends Meet, DEO work to get results for Anna Blair

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The victim of an unemployment benefits heist said a Department of Economic Opportunity employee told her it could take up to 10 years for $1,150 in stolen funds to be reissued to her.

Anna Marie Blair called News 6 and the Make Ends Meet team after getting the unexpected response last week from the DEO.

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“The last straw before I contacted you guys was when the (DEO employee) told me that this could take anywhere from one day to 10 years,” Blair said. “She said there’s other people ahead of you, and I just have to hold up and wait.”

Blair, a licensed paralegal in Volusia County, said she used a routing number on her DEO account to track the money to a Venmo account in Wilmington, Delaware.

When she spoke to the fraud investigator for the bank linked to the Venmo account, she was informed that the bank had already rerouted the funds to Florida’s unemployment department.

Nearly a year later, Blair has taken an assistant teaching position at her grandchildren’s elementary school, but she refuses to let the money go.

“I’ve got three grandchildren I’m raising. I have stage 3 breast cancer, I’ve got to have this money,” she said.

Blair told News 6 her cancer is in remission and when the attorney she worked for retired, she took the first job that was available.

She admitted her hourly wage has dropped significantly from $20 an hour to $11 an hour at the elementary school.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it’s a lot of money to my family,” the frustrated Blair told News 6.

Her husband is recovering from a stroke related to two bouts of COVID-19 and is awaiting disability benefits.

News 6 contacted the DEO in Tallahassee and on Monday afternoon, a reemployment team member contacted Blair to start the process of reissuing the money.

The DEO is sensitive to unemployment fraud issues.

According to the DEO, to date, the department has prevented approximately $23 billion in fraudulent benefit payments, as well as prevented more than 90% of identified fraudulent activity on claimant accounts.

Fraud prevention measures are estimated to have prevented more than $20 billion dollars in potential fraudulent payments since March 2020.

If you have an unemployment issue email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words make ends meet along with your 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.