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Payroll Mystery Surrounds West Palm Accounting Firm

A Deerfield Beach woman got stunning news this morning. The woman (who asked not to be named) has been receiving unemployment benefits from the state for a few months now. But today, she was told her benefits are done. She was told she had a job working at an accounting firm in West Palm Beach.

Except she doesn't have a job. She says she'd never heard of this accounting firm -- which is a 40-minute drive from her home. She called the state. She called the firm. She just wants to know why her unemployment direct deposit didn't show up in her account today.

I called the accounting firm the state believes has been employing the woman: C.R. Cooper, CPA, on Forest Hill Boulevard in West Palm Beach. I spoke with Lynn York, an employee of the firm.

"We're not sure what's going on," York told me. "Apparently this is some sort of scam, and we have nothing to do with it."

She said that the latest woman makes the 11th such call the firm has had in the past four months. People from all over Florida are calling, saying their benefits have been cut off because the state received a payroll claim saying they were employed at the firm. They've had calls from as far away as Bradenton, Orlando, and Jacksonville. The firm has even had to fax the Florida Department of Children and Families a verification that one woman had never been employed there.

"We haven't hired anyone since March of last year," York said.

The only thing it appears these victims have in common, York said, aside from receiving public benefits from the state, is that they've each received a check from PBS of Florida at some point in the past year.

"It's some sort of payroll scam, for sure," York said. There's no way the firm would benefit from having ghost employees, she said. If anything, the firm might have to pay higher payroll taxes.

Both parties -- the woman and the accounting firm -- are hoping law enforcement can get to the bottom of the mystery soon.

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Michael J. Mooney

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