LEWISTON — The owner of a Lewiston manufacturing company said he and one of his employees have been awarded state unemployment even though they’re working and neither filed for benefits.

David Allen, owner of Allen Manufacturing in Lewiston, which started making face masks and shields in response to the pandemic, says he and one employee have both been awarded state unemployment benefits despite neither of them applying for them. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

David Allen said Tuesday that after he appealed the Maine Department of Labor’s decision to give one of his workers unemployment benefits — the man hadn’t been laid off and was still on the job at Allen Manufacturing — he himself was inexplicably awarded unemployment benefits.

A Maine Department of Labor spokeswoman said the state, “along with the rest of the country, is seeing an increase in reports of imposter fraud” when it comes to filings and that Allen’s experience would be shared with “the appropriate authorities.”

Allen, the owner of Allen Manufacturing in Lewiston’s Hill Mill, said he was initially surprised to receive a notice from the state last month saying that one of his 10 employees, a man named Dan who’s been with him since 2014, had filed for unemployment benefits.

Allen hasn’t laid off anyone since the start of the pandemic, and he checked with Dan. Dan told him he hadn’t filed for any benefits.

“My first thought was, ‘Mistakes happen,'” Allen said.

Allen Manufacturing specializes in cutting, stitching and light assembly and the last two months has also jumped into face masks and face shields with additional stitchers sewing from home.

“We have not had 40 hours worth of work for everybody (in the factory) but I’ve continued to pay them for 40 hours,” he said.

Allen sent the request for separation/wage information back to the DOL on April 24 with a handwritten note: “Dan is still working for us,” along with the employee’s cell phone number to reach out for confirmation.

On May 6, the DOL mailed Allen a notice confirming benefits had been awarded. Dan told him that no one from the state had called.

“For them to come back and still award him unemployment absolutely baffled me,” he said.

As part of his appeal, Allen sent the state copies of 10 pay stubs and a letter from Dan attesting to the fact he had not applied for unemployment.

“In the strongest terms available, I appeal and dispute the department’s findings,” Allen wrote May 16. “Please reverse your decision immediately and provide documentation that Allen Manufacturing’s experience rating has not been negatively impacted AND that if you have collected any money from us due to this incorrect original decision (it) is promptly returned to us.”

On May 19, the DOL mailed Allen two additional forms that he provided to the Sun Journal: A request for separation/wage information related to Allen’s own unemployment claim and a first payment notice letting Allen know how much he’d be receiving in unemployment benefits each week.

That no one called Dan to double-check, “to use maybe too strong of a word, that’s mismanagement or poor training,” Allen said. “Who knows if someone committing fraud, an imposter, has half a brain or not. If they have half a brain and it says, ‘Allen Manufacturing,’ you wouldn’t pick someone whose last name is Allen. You don’t go in to rob a bank and write the note on your deposit slip from that bank with your name on it.”

Allen said neither he nor Dan have received any payments yet.

“Mistakes happen, and I get that, and imposter fraud happens, and I get that, but there should be a check and balance,” Allen said. “The vast majority of businesses are going to reply and say, ‘This person didn’t apply,’ and the state needs to do something about that, in my opinion.”

Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said last week in a news release that the state has paid out roughly $425 million in unemployment benefits since March 15, with 92,000 continuing claims and 4,640 initial claims the week ending May 16.

Maine DOL spokeswoman Jessica Picard said Tuesday that she did not have a number related to how much suspected fraud Maine has experienced, “but more information will be coming.”

The department has taken additional steps to protect the unemployment system, she said, including coordinating with the financial institutions to identify suspicious accounts, creating a cross-agency task force and blocking web addresses linked to fraud in Maine and other states.

“I can’t speak to specific people or cases, but the claims process and the appeals process is separate, and not linked,” Picard said. “All suspected fraud is being investigated.”


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