Unemployment insurance woes: Couple fights state over ‘unjustified’ $10,000 fine

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GRANDVILLE, Mich. -- The story of one man's battle with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) sparked a large response from around West Michigan.

The FOX 17 Problem Solvers' tip line, station email accounts and Facebook page received a lot of feedback following Joshua Coster's story. Many of those individuals said they or someone they know has also been wrongly accused of fraud and charged a fine by the UIA. They said there's little to no recourse.

Dan Wilder and his wife, Carrie Borchers, are among them. The Grandville couple plan to buy a house and just started a small business. However, those tasks are on hold because of their dealings with the UIA.

“It is frustrating to say the least," Borchers said.

The couple said the problem started when Wilder lost his job in January 2014. His company got sold, and the new employer wanted to downsize.

“They needed to cut the fat," Wilder said.

The former owner even wrote Wilder a positive job review after he was let go. Wilder provided the review letter to the Problem Solvers.

Borchers said, “Dan immediately filed for unemployment benefits. We received notification from the state he was eligible to claim benefits.”

He collected benefits for 6 weeks, and it totaled roughly $2,000. Wilder said he landed a new job in March and notified the state.

“We thought, ‘phew.' We hit a little bump in the road," Borchers said.

But fast forward to December. Just before Christmas, the state sent the couple bad news in the mail.

“In December, we received a letter in the mail from the UIA stating that he owed $10,870," Borchers showed FOX 17 the documents. [exact amount: $10,867.86]

The state accused Wilder of fraud and wanted more than five times what he collected. Surprised, confused, and unable to get through to anyone with the agency, the couple hired an attorney.

Apparently, the state sent Wilder a message in September to his ‘online unemployment account’. But keep in mind, Wilder got off the unemployment rolls in March of that year. He said he had no reason to check the account.

The state questioned Wilder’s eligibility for benefits after someone from his former company said poor performance was the reason for his dismissal and not cutbacks.
That was despite the positive review Wilder got from his boss. Borchers believes the company tried skirting its responsibility to pay for unemployment.

“When we looked at the information that they submitted to the state, it was a hundred pages of fraudulent information," Borchers recalled. "Emails that Dan wasn’t a part of, facts that weren’t there, errors that occurred when Dan was on vacation, on our honeymoon," she added.

She said the company submitted the negative claims three times in 2014. In September, the state sided with them and went after Dan.

Wilder said, “I understand that people are abusing, can abuse the system. But I just simply wanted to collect unemployment until I found a new job.”

“He was the poster child for using the system the right way," Borchers said.

Borchers reached out to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers after seeing a similar story last week. The state also went after Joshua Coster for $2,700 despite the fact that he never collected a dime of unemployment. The state claims there was a discrepancy in his unemployment application and took the money from his federal tax refund.

"I'm not trying to commit fraud. I'm not that kind of person," Coster said.

He added, "I'm kind of at a loss right now... ya know, [on] what to do."

After our story aired, the UIA agreed to review Coster's case. UIA spokesperson Lynda Robinson said the agency is also willing to look at other cases the Problem Solvers bring to their attention.

Borchers said, “When I saw your story last week, I said, 'There’s someone [else] here in town!'"

She continued, "...and then I’m reading all these comments [on Facebook]. So I felt better that there were other people that this is happening to, but then I got really angry, cause it’s like this is happening to a lot of people, a lot people and it cannot continue.”

The husband and wife are glad they contacted the Problem Solvers because their attorney has gotten nowhere on their case.

Borchers said, “And our attorney, just as recently as today, has reached out to the UIA to find out where, where do we stand with our request for an appeal before an administrative law judge and she can’t get a response from the UIA."

"They're like, ‘We don’t know why we haven’t responded. I’ll have to talk to a manager.' And it’s like uh… nobody knows. Is anybody in charge? Does anybody work in this building?” Borchers questioned.

Although the UIA didn’t want to talk to the Problem Solvers on camera about all of this, they did send a written statement. They tell us that each case is unique and that they take customer concerns seriously. They go on to say:

“The agency will thoroughly review each case and work with the customer on a resolution in accordance with the law. If it is determined that an error has been made on the part of the UIA, the agency will work to rectify the situation accordingly.”

They also say anyone with questions or concerns regarding unemployment benefits can call them at 866-500-0017.

Later this week, the Problem Solvers sit down with an attorney who filed a federal lawsuit on the matter.

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36 comments

  • Eric rininger

    They did same thing to me they are charging me almost 90 thousand dollars they have taken my taxes and are courently garnishing my wages at work

  • Mike

    “I’m not that kid of person” and , “I’m kind of at a loss right now. Yea know, what to do.” = does FOX-17 not have a copy-editor employed, or someone who can actually spell-check your online articles for embrassing typos like these?

  • Rebecca Harwood

    My husband is also being accused of fraud with unemployment first he got a letter saying he owed a little over 7 grand and he protested it and got a letter back on Saturday saying there was no eveidence justifying and now they are saying he owes almost 12 grand! Saying he claimed weeks he wasn’t suppose when he was laid off from the trucking company he worked for.

  • Steve Gillespie

    Lol Yeah, go ahead and call that number. Call it 100 times and write down how many times you actually get through to talk to someone.

    • frustrated

      Agreed!! You can never get through and get help. Then a mistake happens and you are the one to blame. Never mind the issue could have been resolved with an answer of the phone.

  • kevin

    The unemployment insurance agency is stealing my money also. They claim i committed fraud. The take all my tax refunds. They also garnish my wages. I have filed appeals, which they ignored. I have called countless times but, impossible to get someone on the phone. The very few times i take to someone, they are dishonest. I cant afford a lawyer. I have no way to fight. The state of Michigan steals from low income..

  • Kim Colt

    I am currently experiencing the same problem with unemployment. This has been a battle for almost a year now. They are claiming I was working full time while I was claiming benefits, I was actually working part time about 12 hours a week at $7.35 an hour. Not only do they want to be reimbursed over $2000, which I don’t have, they are adding almost $200 a month in interest. I have sent repeated letters of hardship and appeals, I have called the given phone number at least 100 times, only to be disconnected because too many others were calling, and I have sat in their office on Plainfield until I was asked to leave because they were closing. The response I finally received last week was that I have exceeded to 30 day appeal period. You can never get face to face with anyone that can actually help. Michigan’s crappy government at its best!

  • Brenda

    We had a similar problem as an employer with communication through the unemployment system. Whatever happened to mailing people a letter?

  • Sue Shepherd

    I am having the same problem with unemployment. Saying I received my money thru fraud. Which is not true. And I appealed and said I won appeal but still have to pay back the money and if I don’t pay back they will take my taxes.

  • Sue

    i too was assessed “penalties and fines” by UIA. Mine were due to my identity being stolen and someone attempting to file an UE claim using my information. This happened in late July 2014. As soon as my employer told me a claim was filed I contacted the UIA fraud department that same day. As of October 2014 I was advised that I needed to do nothing more. When I filed for my taxes in April , the state intercepted my federal return to pay a portion of the fines and penalties I was assessed for the fraudulent claim. I was the victim yet I was assessed the fines. I immediately contacted state rep Al Pscholkas office and they are able to get my funds released to me within about 2 weeks!

  • Tara

    This same thi.g is happening to me but for over $18,000.00 and they took all of my taxes and sent me letters. Its stupid because I had every right to my unemployment that they cut off after a few months them charged me a huge penalty of like 15-$16000.00

    • CATHY

      IT IS LIKE A PERSON CAN’T GET AHEAD. YOU CAN’T GET HELP BECAUSE YOU CAN’T GET THROUGH TO THEM BUT THEY ARE QUICK TO TAKE YOU FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE AND THEN SAY OH WELL WE COULD HAVE PRESSED CHARGES.

  • Gina Close

    Who do I contact about this. I’m in the same situation as these people. I was approved and eligible to collect benefits and then out of no where I’m told I was never eligible for those benefits and told I have to pay them back. I want to have a lawyer look at my case.

  • David

    Michigan UIA said that I stated “I refused employment.” Which was a lie.

    Then it was reported to my case worker at DHS, and it affected my family’s food benefits.

    Nothing will please me more to see them get a dose of their own medicine.

    ***Since then I accepted a job****

  • mariano

    The STATE OF MICHIGAN UNEMPLOYMENT are doing the same to me Garnishing from my bank account I call no reply ask for proof to be mail out nothing a court date NONE . They say I own them $6516.00 but now with PENATTY and INTEREST I own $34541.48 . Still fighting them and faxing paper work with no response . Calling FOX news for help TOO.

  • Terry

    They claimed I committed fraud for 2700 dollars which I have appealed. I did not commit fraud; I was unemployed and seeking work. I have appealed this sooo many times, and have paid back the 2700 dollars already. They are still charging me over 14000 dollars in penalties on this. I requested a meeting with their judge which was denied, but suddenly it says my penalty balance is a little over 4000. I have never received anything explaining this other then the denial. You can appeal the appeal, and try to call 50 times a day. I discovered that the best time to call is first thing in the morning. At least you can get in a queue to be called back and hopefully you get a call.

  • Fayth

    They did that to my boyfriend! The same poor performance bull crap! He was only on it for a couple months and they multiplied what he got times 4!!! That is over 8,000!! How can they times it by 4? They are making him pay $150 a month back or they are going to garnish his wages. Like the story says he wasn’t trying to fraud the system he was just trying to stay on his feet! Even if he has to pay what they gave him back how can they charge more?

  • At A Lost

    Omg!!! I’m having the same problem, they are claiming I committed a fraud… How is that, all I did was apply for unemployment after 9 years of service at my job. I was let go and given a day that would be my last day and on that day I went and filed for unemployment and received it for 6 months that came up to $7,240.00. Now they claim I committed a fraud and have to pay back $36,421.00. Who can help me, I cannot afford a lawyer and I’m at my end, this is putting a lot of stress on me I don’t know what to do. They keep sending me threatening letters.How can they do this to me. I need help please!!!

  • Kim Day

    My story is so similar. Went to a hearing & “won” in March 2014, only to receive bills in December when I had no idea they had decided that I was “fraudulent ” in November. Because I had not responded in 30 days (didn’t know it was happening because I didn’t go to their site). How is it they manage to send hard copies of the bill to me, yet couldn’t notify me they intended to overturn my payments! I even spent hours of my precious little vacation time in a “resolution center” and was advised not to pay because it was obviously a mistake, and I am still getting bills . I am so disgusted and disappointed and just don’t know who to ask for help! Ideas welcome!

  • alan landers

    i have been cleared by unemployment once and had 2court hearings and had been cleared .now hoping its done! been fighting them for over a year ,got job(THEY OWED ME 3 WEEKS )FUNNY HOW THEY OWE ME BUT THEY CLAIMED I OWED THEM 74000 on the 14000 that i recived .

  • Nansi McDaniel

    HOW does the UIA Keep getting away with this??? shouldnt the state step in or the governor and shut down this clearly broken computer program! maybe problem solvers needs to go to the top and stop doing a case by case thing! man i am glad i have NEVER needed unemployment! i hope these people get the help they need and their money back!

  • Cindy

    This happened to my husband. He collected two weeks unemployment over Chrismas holiday a couple years ago. He collected about 600.00 dollars. Several months later we got a letter saying he had to pay back almost 6000.00 because he commited fraud. We appealed but they said he still had to pay because we ignored the first letter they sent out,c which we never got. They lowered it to 3000.00 and we did get it payed off but he should never have had to pay anything back. What a scam! I feel sorry for all you people and hope you can get out of paying these outrageous fees.

  • Eric Lofquist

    When i was on unemployment i signed up for college and because I had to drop out cause i had to work to take care of my family of seven they said i frauded them and made me pay back 24000 for 4000 they gave. I dont understand how they can take all of my money an nothing i can do about even the state is making me pay child support for the kids i take care of an again nithing i can do about it. The state took about 40000 from me in the last five years. I dont know what to do i can barely take care of my family

  • Steven

    I am looking for any advice, guidance at this point. I too have been hit with this “fraud” issue. Years after collecting in 2011, I received a letter, with zero prior notice, that I have committed fraud and owe back a few thousand dollars, but due to “fraud” I now owe back nearly $22,000 in fines. I am a veteran, who values this country and our government enough to fight and put my own life at risk for theirs! I also had worked for a Michigan state employer for 15 years when many of us were outsourced and left with nothing after all those years devoted and committed to that company! I am married for 15 years with 6 children who have only been supported by myself and my wife. We have NEVER received govt. assistance or any aid. I simply applied for my well deserved unemployment benefits until I was able to seek employment elsewhere so that my family of 8 would not lose all we’ve worked for!! It’s crazy that somehow we were able to make it through those hard economic times, my wife working 72+ hours a week and me on very minimal unemployment benefits, but now are at risk of losing everything due to the states negligence! And this is how we treat our citizens, veterans, and hard working people of Michigan? We are better than this! I have not once been able to speak to a human, just keep receiving letters saying now with late fees and interest I owe nearly $30,000! My taxes were taken from us, I have 2 children in college that I am unable to help due to this. It has put my wife and I in a great deal of financial and emotional stress. And all we can do is just let them take our hard earned money? Because no one can take a few minutes to let me say my side, to hear facts, to rectify this problem? What a shame. I simply have no idea how this happened to me, and have heard so many stories very similar to mine. Someone please help myself and so many of these other innocent victims!!!!

  • Julie and Paul Austin

    My husband just received two letters today from the UIA stating he is fraudulent. He was layed off because the company was down sizing. As with the couple in this clip…..he did everything correctly. Does anyone have any information as to how to proceed? Does not sound like the UIA is making themselves available; despite their statement to Fox 17.

  • Stacey

    This happened to my husband and I. It started in February 2015, same circumstances with regard to sending original correspondence to his online account. Then being denied for being late. Our attorney was doing everything he could. I finally called our state representative and someone from his office was so helpful. I sent him everything. He called the UIA and sent them something to put some fire under their butts and the UIA actually called my husband. We were shocked ! After another appeal was sent, we finally just for a hearing date ! A year and a half later. They took our complete tax refund and were on the verge of garnishing wages. My husband was laid off for 7 weeks and worked for his unemployed for 5. So in the 12 week quarter, they looked at what he made, what they paid him and seek he made more than just what they paid him. Duh ! He’s working now. Makes absolutely no sense. I strongly recommend contacting your state representative for your district and seeing if they can help. It helped us. Good luck to all of you. I’m praying the administrative law judge rules in our favor. Then it’s the next fight, getting back our tax refund ($7500) that they took. I will tell you this…. Our attorney pretty much said any money you willingly pay, you will have a hard time getting back. We simply didn’t pay until the notice of garnishment came and a rep at the UIA told my husband that any amount would put the garnishment on hold. We literally paid them $20 and they haven’t taken anything from his check.

  • Rob

    UIA is entirely messed up. I’d love to face them in court. They probably wouldn’t show and their records would be inaccurate if they did. They tried to fine me as an employer for back payroll payments after the company was inactive for a year and no payroll was issued. They were notified that this was the case but still kept increasing the fine every month . Finally I spoke to some one with a brain when I told them I would pay the fine then immediately lay myself off to collect it back. At last I was transferred to a manager who looked at everything and said this was stupid and cleared it all up.