By CBS3 Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Eight Philadelphia government employees lied that they were unemployed in order to receive pandemic jobless benefits, prosecutors said in announcing criminal charges Thursday.

The attorney general’s office said the city workers collectively were paid more than $300,000 in pandemic unemployment assistance in 2020. Individuals collected between $17,000 and $63,000, prosecutors said.

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They were accused of theft, receiving stolen property and tampering with public records in charges filed Wednesday in a Harrisburg district court.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said prosecutors do not believe the eight defendants are connected. They include people who worked for the city as asphalt rakers and social work services managers.

“These individuals didn’t just apply for (the) assistance once and got the money,” Shapiro said at a Philadelphia news conference Thursday. “Instead they had to go online, week after week, and reaffirm that they were unemployed due to COVID-19.”

Only two of the defendants answered calls to phone numbers listed in court records — one denied the allegations and the other declined to comment. Messages were left for three and the other three numbers were not working.

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State prosecutors have so far charged 63 people in Pennsylvania with pandemic unemployment fraud worth about $3.1 million.

The attorney general’s office received a referral to investigate the allegations from the city’s inspector general in October 2021.

A spokesperson from the mayor’s office says there’s no place in the city’s workforce for people who defraud government benefit programs.

“We believe that public employment is a privilege that demands honesty, and we have initiated the dismissal process for these employees. There is no place in the City of Philadelphia’s workforce for those who choose to defraud government benefit programs that are intended for people in need, and we are grateful to the Office of the Inspector General and the Attorney General for their work to hold these individuals accountable,” a spokesperson said.

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