New Jersey resident Eric Jaklitsch was arrested in December after the FBI, DHS, and California's Employment Development Department linked the man to 78 fraudulent UI claims that saw him receive roughly $900,000. Jaklitsch duped government-used facial recognition software to get the claims by donning a large, curly orange wig, federal prosecutors say
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A New Jersey man allegedly exploited a government-used facial recognition system to claim nearly a million dollars in fake unemployment payments from a state more than 2,000 miles away, by posting photos of himself in ginger wigs.

Eric Jaklitsch was arrested in early December after the FBI, DHS, and California’s Employment Development Department finished a year-long investigation that linked the man to 78 fraudulent UI claims in The Golden State. 

Jaklitsch allegedly attempted to steal over $2.5 million from state funds, successfully coming away with roughly $900,000 after duping the software by donning a large, curly orange wig to verify fake driver’s licenses from multiple states, federal prosecutors say.

New Jersey resident Eric Jaklitsch was arrested in December after the FBI, DHS, and California's Employment Development Department linked the man to 78 fraudulent UI claims that saw him receive roughly $900,000. Jaklitsch duped government-used facial recognition software to get the claims by donning a large, curly orange wig, federal prosecutors say

New Jersey resident Eric Jaklitsch was arrested in December after the FBI, DHS, and California’s Employment Development Department linked the man to 78 fraudulent UI claims that saw him receive roughly $900,000. Jaklitsch duped government-used facial recognition software to get the claims by donning a large, curly orange wig, federal prosecutors say

ATM footage shows Jaklitsch, 40, withdrawing money from the phony claims using debit cards issued in the names of identity theft victims, feds say

ATM footage shows Jaklitsch, 40, withdrawing money from the phony claims using debit cards issued in the names of identity theft victims, feds say

One claim filed by Jaklitsch, 40, with California’s Employment Development Department, according to prosecutors, was in the name of someone claiming to be a ‘children’s zoo caretaker’ in Sacramento. In the bogus claim, Jaklitsch said he earned $124,000 until he was laid off due to the pandemic, feds say. 

Another was for an ‘aqua fitness instructor,’ also in Sacramento, who Jaklitsch said was making $105,000 a year until they lost their job after contracting COVID-19, it is alleged. 

Yet another was for a Los Angeles chauffeur who also bizarrely had a background as a zoologist. 

All of Jaklitsch’s alleged creations had one thing in common: a mop of bright red hair – a characteristic he achieved by donning the cheap, little-orphan-Annie-esque rug.

Other bogus claim allegedly filed by Jaklitsch included one for a bank teller, a fitness instructor, and a museum director. All made more $100,000 and were laid off in some part because of the coronavirus. 

Jaklitsch, whose real license is pictured here, was arrested in early December after the FBI, DHS, and California's Employment Development Department finished a year-long investigation that linked the man to 78 fraudulent UI claims in California

Jaklitsch, whose real license is pictured here, was arrested in early December after the FBI, DHS, and California’s Employment Development Department finished a year-long investigation that linked the man to 78 fraudulent UI claims in California

‘During the scheme, Jaklitsch collected personal identifying information of numerous individuals – including names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers – and used their identities to file fraudulent unemployment insurance claims,’ US Attorney Phillip Talbert’s office said after announcing the arrest. 

‘The filings represented, among other things, that the claimants had recently lost employment or were unable to find employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.’ 

The disguises, while far from foolproof, were enough to repeatedly dupe the state’s unemployment branch, the Employment Development Department (EDD), prosecutors say, who had enlisted facial recognition company ID.me to confirm claims through biometric identification – an advanced type of automated recognition that analyzed body metrics and features.

Bogus claims filed by Jaklitsch included one for a bank teller, a fitness instructor, and a museum director. All made more $100K and were laid off in some part because of the coronavirus

Bogus claims filed by Jaklitsch included one for a bank teller, a fitness instructor, and a museum director. All made more $100,000 and were laid off because of the coronavirus

All of Jaklitsch's fake identities had one thing in common: a mop of bright red hair - a characteristic Jaklitsch achieved by donning the cheap, little-orphan-Annie-esque rug

All of Jaklitsch’s fake identities had one thing in common: a mop of bright red hair – a characteristic Jaklitsch achieved by donning the cheap, little-orphan-Annie-esque rug

‘In at least 78 UI claims, Jaklitsch presents himself the same way, regardless of the ID theft victim’s age or sex,’ an affidavit from US Labor Department Special Agent Christina Wang said of the case. 

‘To date, the suspected dollar loss to the state of California is more than $900,000 with an attempted loss of more than $2.5 million,’ the affidavit adds. ‘This estimate is based on the loss amount associated with the 78 fraudulent UI (claims) submitted to California EDD, of which approximately 68 were approved and funded.’

Agents eventually busted Jaklitsch after they tracked his movements around his home state of New Jersey as he visited ATMs to withdraw cash for the phony claims using debit cards issued in the names of identity theft victims.

Investigators were able to confirm their suspicions regarding Jaklitsch’s racket after a mailman who delivered mail to the man’s Elizabeth apartment told them ‘that mail was delivered to that same address for multiple other people’s names,’ the affidavit states.

The filing adds that bank records showed at least 18 fraudulent EDD debit cards had been sent to the apartment under nine different names. 

'In at least 78 UI claims, Jaklitsch presents himself the same way, regardless of the ID theft victim's age or sex,' an affidavit from US Labor Department Special Agent Christina Wang said of the case

‘In at least 78 UI claims, Jaklitsch presents himself the same way, regardless of the ID theft victim’s age or sex,’ an affidavit from US Labor Department Special Agent Christina Wang said of the case 

The crimes comes as a slap in the face of the online identity company, which had been contracted by ten different federal agencies for their verification technology, and failed to catch on to Jaklitsch’s alleged scheme.

In January, their facial-recognition software was dropped by the IRS. 

When questioned by The Washington Post as to how Jaklitsch was allegedly able to so easily dupe their software, the company said ‘the tactics of fraudsters are constantly evolving’ and insisted it ‘uses extensive analytics and models to prevent identity theft.’ 

The company added that it is ‘continuously updating controls that protect against new and emerging fraudulent activity.’

The disguises, while far from foolproof, were enough to repeatedly dupe the state's unemployment branch, the Employment Development Department (EDD), prosecutors say, who had enlisted facial recognition company ID.me to confirm claims with their technology

The disguises, while far from foolproof, were enough to repeatedly dupe the state’s unemployment branch, the Employment Development Department (EDD), prosecutors say, who had enlisted facial recognition company ID.me to confirm claims with their technology

Following reports from The Post and other outlets as well as backlash from Congress, the company announced this week that it would no longer as people to submit a ‘video selfie’ when conducting a facial recognition scan for basic government services. 

The company last year was valued at $1.5 billion, and currently confirms the identities of Americans for at least 500 companies who use their software to verify claims for things like unemployment insurance and online tax records.

Its government contracts amount in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Jaklitsch, meanwhile, is in custody in California and faces wire-fraud charges for the ruse, feds say.

The case is currently ongoing. 

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