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State worker, barber's wife allegedly stole $1 million in unemployment benefits

Posted at 8:32 AM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 12:52:07-04

There's outrage among Michiganders waiting for unemployment benefits after learning a state employee allegedly teamed up with his barber's wife and stole over a million dollars in unemployment money.

This is a horrific case of greed, especially with so many people depending on that money, and now finding out a state employee was benefiting at their expense.

“It’s just heartbreaking to think about. It’s just like they don’t have a conscience,” said Melissa Filar.

Filar has been waiting 14 weeks for unemployment and after learning a state employee is accused of taking over a million dollars in aid she says, “the hits just keep coming.”

“There are a lot of horrible people out there; I think they’re really selfish," Filar said. "They probably see this as a golden opportunity to get rich."

Federal prosecutors says 41-year-old Jermaine Rose, a claims examiner with the state unemployment insurance agency, teamed up with his barber's wife, 36-year-old Serenity Poynter, to steal more than a million dollars in unemployment aid meant for people in need.

“They’re diverting the money and using it for their own greedy purposes and that is really sad, because right now we are at a time where thousands of people in Michigan are out of work because of the pandemic,” said U.S Attorney Mathew Schneider.

The feds say Poynter filed more than a dozen fraudulent claims using different social security numbers, and also different names.

“When you steal money from the unemployment system, you’re really stealing money from the people who need it and that money can go to pay for bread, for milk for food,” Schneider said.

Rose and Poynter are charged with mail and wire fraud and theft of government funds, punishable up to 20 years. For Michiganders like Filar, still waiting for unemployment, she says more needs to be done to take care of people who are struggling.

“I’m like going through my entire life savings and I have no money coming in right now," she said. "I am an artist. I do commissions but it’s peanuts compared to what I have to spend. So, it’s like I don’t know what to do."

Rose is the second state employee charged in a scheme to steal pandemic aid from people who lost their jobs.

This story was originally published by Alan Campbell at WXYZ.