At the beginning of the pandemic Colorado’s unemployment system was taxed by a burgeoning jobless roll. Now, it’s beset by fraud. And not just the mundane claim here or there vying to get an illegitimate dollar or two, but by sophisticated, organized scams that have cost the state at least $10 million in lost funds.
Denver Post reporters Noelle Phillips and Joe Rubino take a look at what the state has done to shore up its system to thwart fraud attempts. The state labor department estimates it has already stopped $7 billion from going to scammers. And there’s still more to be done.
Phillips and Rubino also talk to several Coloradans whose names and addresses have been used as part of schemes to defraud the state. Clearing their names with the state has been an uphill battle filled with headaches and frustrations.
“It feels like you’re going down a black hole with no escape,” business owner Phil Hotalin says.
Sunday’s story not only explores the ways in which crime syndicates are trying to game the system, but it offers ways Coloradans can protect themselves.
“It’s a big problem,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said. “If you put this in a broader context, scammers are going to look for any way they can take advantage of the system and prey on people. Please be vigilant. Be careful. Any robocall, any phone call, any emails you get could be a scammer. Don’t just move ahead to share personal information if you’re not sure exactly who you’re sharing it with.”
— Donovan Henderson, The Denver Post
Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post
Hiroko Kondo, 94, left, and her son Rich, 54, pose for a portrait at their home in Northglenn on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.
Jessica Hill, The Associated Press
Educator John Cormier of Norwich, Conn., receives a shot from LPN Lizmary Reyes, right, on opening day of the Connecticut’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinic Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, UCHealth is planning Colorado’s first mass drive-thru vaccination site outside Coors Field on Jan. 30-31, following a trial run on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2020.
UCHealth is planning to stage a drive-thru mass-vaccination event in Coors Field’s parking lots at the end of January that would see a projected 10,000 people 70 or older inoculated against COVID-19 over two days, officials with the health system said Friday.
Before finalizing the Jan. 30-31 event in Denver — which would be held in conjunction with city and state officials and the Colorado Rockies — UCHealth will conduct a dry run at the same site on Sunday, with plans to vaccinate 1,000 older Coloradans who have appointments.
“No walk-ins will be vaccinated on these days,” said Dan Weaver, vice president of communications for UCHealth. “In fact, if a car pulls in with multiple people inside, we’ll only be able to vaccinate the one person with an appointment.”
Rachel Ellis, The Denver Post
Carol Elston prepares a syringe with the Moderna vaccine for recipients coming in for their second dose at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Uptown on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.
About 40,000 older Coloradans will get their first COVID-19 shot a few weeks earlier than initially planned after the state on Monday ordered providers to stop holding back second doses.
In a letter sent to vaccine providers, Gov. Jared Polis directed hospitals and others to stop holding back doses for current patients’ second shots. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced three or four weeks apart, respectively.
Polis estimated that the doses currently held in reserve for future weeks will allow about 40,000 more people to get vaccinated this week. The state expects about 83,000 doses to arrive this week, meaning more than 120,000 people can get their first shot, he said. Read More…
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Robert Gieswein, a 24-year-old Woodland Park man, stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a federal arrest warrant.
A 24-year-old Colorado man faces federal charges after investigators allege he assaulted and threatened police officers defending the U.S. Capitol and also climbed through a broken window to enter the building during the Jan. 6 riot that disrupted the certification of the 2020 election.
Robert Gieswein, of Woodland Park, carried a bat during the riot and dressed himself in pseudo-military garb, including a patch for an alleged paramilitary training program he ran in Colorado that federal law enforcement used to identify him, according to a warrant for his arrest. Read More…
Charlie Riedel, Associated Press file
In this April 24, 2015, file photo, pumpjacks work in a field near Lovington, N.M. In the closing months of the Trump administration, energy companies stockpiled enough drilling permits for western public lands to keep pumping oil for years. That stands to undercut President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to block new drilling on public lands to address climate change.
The Biden administration announced Thursday the suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters for 60 days as part a broad review of programs at the Department of Interior.
The move follows President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to halt new drilling on federal lands and end the leasing of publicly owned energy reserves as part of his plan to address climate change. Read More…
Saul Loeb, Pool Photo via AP
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders arrives for the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.
Vermont Senator and two-time Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is once again at the center of the jokes. Months ago, Sanders stood in front of a camera in a gray jacket asking for political donations and became a meme. In the very same coat during President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Sanders became a worldwide meme.
Was it the mittens, the mask, the social distance or the general disinterest? Whatever it was, people have related.
Here are some of the best Colorado/Sanders meme crossovers of Brendan Smialowski‘s viral photo. Read More…
See more great photos like this on The Denver Post’s Instagram account.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Rock climber Angela Lee climbs on a route called Black is Beautiful on Jan. 14, 2021 in Penitente Canyon.