Bill to help DEO fight unemployment fraud passes House committee

fraud (Large)

A bill giving the Department of Opportunity more tools in the fight against unemployment benefits fraud unanimously passed the House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee on Monday.

According to LobbyTools, state Rep. Mike La Rosa, sponsor of HB 1017, said the DEO identified “9,600 claims based on I.D. fraud” in 2013 alone. Those figures led the St. Cloud Republican to call for giving the agency more authority to combat the issue.

A strike-all amendment removed several controversial provisions of the bill, including language that would have authorized DEO to hire law enforcement officers and garnish wages of those engaging in fraud.

Other parts of the bill remain, in modified form, LobbyTools reports, such as increasing the length of time a fraudster is banned from using unemployment benefits if identity theft is discovered.

A first offense would earn the individual a five-year ban from the system,2 increasing to 10 years for subsequent violations.

If passed, the DEO would be able to form an agreement with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for access to the agency’s photo identification base to verify identities and avert fraud. It adds language to the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, expanding it to activities related to unemployment benefits fraud.

LobbyTools also notes that the bill is a priority of the DEO. The bill has a Senate companion, SB 1216, filed by Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel. It has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704