The largest improper pension payment was more than $37,000, and it went to prisoner convicted of sexually assaulting a minor.
While one inmate was locked up for more than a year for a drug offense, the unemployment benefits were coming in — all $39,000, and then some.
Another serving time for unlawful possession of a weapon started receiving unemployment only after spending three months in prison, and was paid more than $25,000 over a year.
And there was a sex offender — behind bars for assaulting a child — who collected more than $37,000 from the state’s public employee pension system even though the program bans payments to those imprisoned for crimes of “moral turpitude.”
These convicts are among at least 20,000 inmates in New Jersey’s jails and prisons who were improperly paid nearly $24 million in benefits by government programs over a two-year period, according to an audit released today by the state comptroller’s office.
“The numbers are significant,” Comptroller Matthew Boxer said in a telephone interview. “I think we were surprised by the magnitude of the numbers.”
The state is trying to get the money back but Boxer acknowledged that won’t be easy.
What happened, he said, is state officials who run programs ranging from unemployment insurance to food stamps did not check their lists of beneficiaries against the full lists of prisoners. While some may have ensured no one locked up in a state prison received benefits, they did not check the jails across New Jersey’s 21 counties, Boxer said.
“There are some agencies that weren’t checking any,” he said.
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