By Peter Schroeder - 04/18/13 06:24 PM EDT
The Justice Department has charged 24 current and former employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with "brazenly stealing" over $250,000 in government benefits.
Thirteen of the current and former IRS workers are facing charges of falsely claiming to be unemployed to obtain benefits including unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare, and housing vouchers.
Each of the employees is facing multiple counts of making false statements, which carry sentences of up to five years if convicted.
Another 11 current or former IRS employees are facing state charges of theft of property over $1,000.
“The taxes that we pay are supposed to support our nation and assist individuals in need, not free-loaders who are gaming the system,” said District Attorney General Amy Weirich. “Taxpayers can take comfort in knowing that we take these matters seriously and that we will prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent possible.”
The bulk of the IRS workers facing charges are from Memphis. One individual charged is from Jackson, Tenn., and another is from Southhaven, Miss.
The Justice Department did not state in its announcement exactly how many of those facing charges are currently employed by the IRS.
The charges come weeks after a Tennessee state audit found that its Department of Labor and Workforce Development had made over $73 million in overpayments over the past several years.
According to The Tennessean, that audit found 24 active state employees who had received more than $126,000 in unemployment benefits and seven dead people who received $12,387. A spokesman for the state labor department told the paper that the new indictments were not directly tied to that audit.