Plainwell man fined $23,000 by UIA for a job he never had

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PLAINWELL, Mi. -- William Griffey and his family are fighting a hefty bill from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. Like hundreds of other people who continue to reach out to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers, the state demands Griffey pay a debt he says he doesn't owe.

"They say I owe $23,545.47," Griffey said.

He said he worked as a track and field coach for Western Michigan University until his contract expired in late June 2014. So he filed for unemployment benefits. The state approved it, and he collected for 20 weeks.

"My benefits ran out in November, and I started full-time employment in December and then 6 months later I got a notice from the UIA about some fraudulent charges on my behalf," Griffey explained.

He said the unemployment agency mailed a notice to his home in mid-May. The letter accused him of misleading the state. So the couple checked his online unemployment account (MiWAM), which he said he had no reason to check since he`d been back to work for 6 months already. The Griffeys found several notices and printed them out.

"[Notices] stating I was working for two companies during the time of my unemployment, and I was not working during that time," he said.

He added, "When I was looking through the papers, I was thinking maybe I filed something wrong."

"It said 'involved employer,' and the first thing I saw was Panda Express," Griffey recalled showing his wife and looking puzzled.

The problem?

"I never worked for Panda Express," he said. "And they claimed I was making $713 a week at Panda Express. That`d be a lot of money."

The documents spell it out. Griffey said he and his wife immediately checked his credit report. The husband and wife said they suspected identity theft but didn't see any fraudulent activity on his report.

"Then I called the corporate headquarters at Panda Express, and they did confirm with me that they do not have record of me as an employee. That if they were subpoenaed to court, they would provide the necessary paperwork for that," he recalled.

Secondly, the state also claimed Griffey still worked for Western Michigan University while collecting benefits. However, Griffey contacted human resources at WMU and retrieved documentation showing his payment history. It shows he received his last check on July 1st. That's right when his contracted ended. Griffey filed an appeal to the UIA to protest and explain everything. This should all be cleared up now, right?

"And that was denied," he said of the appeal.

He learned it was denied because he missed the 30 day deadline to respond to the notices that only went to his online unemployment account (MiWAM). Again, it's an account he had no reason to check since he returned to full-time employment several months ago.

Griffey said he and his wife started researching their problem online and found FOX 17's coverage.

"We were just appalled, shocked and appalled at all the different stories we`re hearing about," he said.

They reached out to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers to warn others and for help.

"I want my name cleared of these charges, and I don`t want to owe the $23,000, especially for something that I didn`t do," Griffey said.

The Problem Solvers are in the process of helping Griffey. If you're like him and the hundreds of other people who've reached out to FOX 17 about problems with the UIA, you can also contact the Sugar Law Center in Detroit at 313-993-4505. As we've reported, the law firm is a part of a federal lawsuit against the state. The state has yet to respond to that lawsuit.

The Problem Solvers have pressed the governor's office repeatedly for an on-camera interview.

The governor's deputy press secretary, Dave Murray, released a statement. It said the state needs to be responsive to taxpayers. It goes on to say, "We understand that there is pending litigation concerning this situation, which limits what we can discuss. We also are unable to discuss particular situations because of privacy concerns."

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  • Terry Herr

    This is just like the confiscation law, hopefully about to be changed. You don’t need to know why they emptied your house and you will never get restitution when they find you innocent.

  • Benny

    Is that the same Dave Murray who used to be the whipping boy over at Mlive? I’d call that a lateral move, but it probably pays a lot better.

  • nicole

    This is just mind boggling. I hope he and all the other folks who have been wrongfully accused and fined by the UIA get all of this settled.
    Dave Murray is right, they need to be responsive to taxpayers, and there’s many who aren’t going to be happy about our dollars being spent in legal fees because the UIA can’t get their stuff together.

  • IA_Adam (@IA_Adam)

    Just another government tactic to terrorize people into not using their unemployment benefits because the agency is probably underfunded and overextended. It’s all smoke and mirrors now. There is no safety net. The government wants everyone out of a job to disappear as far as their books are concerned because technology has now replaced half the work force and there is nothing but burger flipping and coffee serving left for low skill workers to do.

  • Rusty Griffey

    what would be a good way of trying to help all these people??? writing letters to our representatives or senators? If people took up this cause with letters & phone calls maybe something good would come out of all of this!!!

  • Kevin

    The uia will always imply fraud but it must prove it. I got a reversal on this issue for couple clients. The uia’ first allegation will be fraud if not for overpayment in a case when you didn’t report an accurate info to them but it says that when you appeal and protest the allegation by submitting a meritorious defense against the accusation. I’ve been litigating with uia and getting results for clients in this situation. Even if you didn’t appeal or protest on time it doesn’t mean you can’t win. It’s a mere accusation that with a competent litigator can be reversed. Call me at 586-745-5318 and come see me.

  • Matthew

    I received unemployment for a few months because my boss stopped working me stated he could not fit me on the schedule he wanted me to quit but I did not he even asked for the key to the building but he was not firing me just couldn’t fit me on the schedule I filed for under employment had no problem until well over a year after I was done receiving benefits I was given a notice stating he offered me work when he refused to work me without looking into anything they said o owed them 14k I disputed it several times them it was dropped to 13 hundred now I got a notice stating I owe 4k and they are taking my taxes when I owe nothing I received money I was entitled to with MI UIA are crooks they are constantly saying we are fraudulent when we are the working class trying to stay a float they are the frauds and will not get a dime from me I would rather not claim and owe the irs then give them a dime not to mention the court date I requested I am still yet to receive they are the criminals

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