Flagler County man learns imposter was stealing his unemployment benefits

65-year-old discovered the theft when he tried to open DEO account

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Tom O’Rourke never needed state unemployment benefits until April 9, 2021, a day he will never forget for two reasons.

It’s the date the 65-year-old Palm Coast man lost his job and discovered someone else had already been collecting unemployment benefits under his name.

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“I was told that I already had a claim filed and there was no need to file a second one,” he recalled.

O’Rourke was a long-time employee of Guardian Medical Monitoring. He told News 6 cutbacks forced him out and without benefits, he delivered groceries while his wife worked overtime at a bakery.

“It’s been quite a struggle,” O’Rourke said. “I resorted to delivering food with Postmates (and) paid my mortgage for three months being able to do that. And my wife worked every minute of overtime that she could possibly do.”

O’Rourke told News 6 he had been fighting to get access to a Department of Economic Opportunity Connect account for the past 11 months.

He said the imposter started collecting benefits January 2021 and ultimately cost him 19 weeks in unemployment benefits.

He contacted News 6 and the Make Ends Meet team for help to navigate past the phantom account.

We presented his case to DEO fraud investigators, who helped O’Rourke file a fraud affidavit.

He said he will soon be able to open a new account with the DEO and finally collect back unemployment benefits.

“Oh my God, tt’s a godsend,” O’Rourke said. ”I know there are thousands of people out there in my situation and just please don’t give up. I mean, its taken me 11 months.”

If you have an unemployment issue, please email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or text the words “Make Ends Meet” along with your issue and a screenshot of your DEO account 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.