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Ohio couple fighting to get back unemployment benefits they say were stolen

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:25 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - An Ohio couple in their 70s is fighting to get back what they say belongs to them - their unemployment benefits.

Donna Sayre says she was excited when she was approved for $4,400 in unemployment benefits in early June.

As she waited for her payment to hit her bank account, she says she contacted the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to find out why she hadn’t yet received the money.

That is when the bad news started.

“She says, ‘wait a minute, did you change your bank information,’ and I said, ‘no,’” Sayre told FOX19 NOW Investigates. “Well, she said, ‘Are you sure? Because right now it’s stating that Green Dot Bank has been sent your money.’ And I said, ‘we’ve never heard of Green Dot before.”

Sayre believes she was the victim of what’s known as an account takeover.

She said when ODJFS released her benefits, instead of depositing it into her Huntington Bank account, she believes a criminal changed account numbers and rerouted the money to a Green Dot Bank account set up in her name.

Donna and Richard Sayre of Akron say they are owed $4,400 in unemployment benefits
Donna and Richard Sayre of Akron say they are owed $4,400 in unemployment benefits(WXIX)

Sayre said she called Green Dot Bank, who said they could send the money back.

“I did get a phone call from a Green Dot gentleman that works there,” Sayre said. “And he asked what can he do for us, and I told him, and he said we need a letter from Job and Family Services, and we can release some money. And I said well I have tried to get a hold of them to have them do that. And I don’t get anywhere.”

Sayre said she and her husband not only tried to contact ODJFS, but they also tried to contact Gov. Mike DeWine multiple times, along with Lieutenant Gov. Jon Husted and Attorney General Dave Yost.

Sayre says Yost told her to call the Federal Reserve, the central bank for the United States.

She says the reserve told her they could get Green Dot Bank to release the money, but legally, it had to go back to the sender, ODJFS.

“Oh no, don’t do that,” Donna’s husband Richard said. “Because we knew what would happen.”

Sayre says the federal reserve sent the money back to ODJFS three weeks ago, but she has still not received her benefits.

“I call unemployment every single day to see if they have any new things put on my record. And it’s always the same thing.” Sayre said.

FOX19 NOW Investigates has repeatedly asked ODJFS when the process for victims to get back stolen benefits will begin.

On Monday, ODJFS spokesperson Bill Teets sent an email with the following:

“It is currently undergoing system testing, but I don’t have a date. I will let you know when I have more information. Putting it in place requires many of the same resources as the process for processing overpayment waivers, which is why it is taking a bit longer than we hoped.”

ODJFS Director Matt Damshroder added that the department expects to be able to announce the process soon.

“You try to live on Social Security from month to month. It’s bad. It’s very bad,” Sayre said. “We’re lucky we have a place to live right now.”

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