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“These individuals were entitled to the unemployment [benefits] at one point,” she said. “What happened was they did not get off unemployment at the appropriate time.”

DOES leveraged federal grants to step up its routine checks for fraud, Ms. Mallory said.

“I want to be clear,” she added; “we did not have the technology before, nor did we have the manpower.”

Mr. Gray acknowledged that safeguards in the unemployment insurance system were “insufficient” and “we’re working on trying to improve those controls so this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”

Ms. Mallory stressed that unemployment fraud is quite common among private-sector workers and in states across the country.

“This isn’t just unique to the District of Columbia,” she said. “The unemployment insurance program is a complex program by the Department of Labor’s own admission.”