24 Internal Revenue Service employees in the state of Tennessee have been charged with theft after an investigation by authorities. The 24 workers managed to steal more than $250,000 in government benefits, according to reports.
"You've got these employees that are taking advantage of the system that are so intimate with it by virtue of their jobs. It's doubly frustrating," Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirech told The Tennessean.
13 of the employees face federal charges of lying about being unemployed while applying for or altering their government benefits. They could face five years in prison if convicted. The other 11 face charges of theft of property over $1,000; they each face a sentence of probation or up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
"While these IRS employees were supposed to be serving the public, they were instead brazenly stealing from law-abiding American taxpayers," U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton said in an official statement.
"Operation Double Dip" was the name of the investigation led by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The agency was specifically designed to look for IRS employees who illegally drew government benefits while working for the government.
That investigation coincided with a state audit that found $73 million had been overpaid by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 24 state employees received more than $126,000 in unemployment benefits and seven dead people managed to receive $12,387.
"The agency considers combating and preventing fraudulent overpayments as a top priority, as well as recouping improper payments resulting from fraud. We will continue to enlist the help of agencies like the OIG to assist in this effort," Jeff Hentschel, spokesman for the Tennessee Labor Department, told The Tennesseean.
"Both current and former employees, they were just bilking money from the government, from the state and federal government– housing, unemployment, food stamps, welfare, all of that," Weirich said. "You would expect better from an IRS agent. We all expect better from all of our government employees."