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

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jun 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-05 18:51:16-04

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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