Seventeen UNC Hospital employees resigned or were fired after an N.C. State Auditor’s analysis discovered they had invalid Social Security numbers.

According to the auditor’s report released Jan. 29, several employees used numbers assigned to people who are dead, some had numbers that had never been issued by the Social Security Administration, and others had numbers that didn’t match the names on file with the SSA. The report also stated that UNC Hospitals didn’t perform their quarterly verification of employees’ Social Security numbers.

The Auditor’s office compared employee numbers from UNC’s payroll file with data from the Social Security Administration, and interviewed several employees with invalid numbers as well as the hospitals’ payroll and human resources staff.

During the investigation, the auditor’s office discovered several personnel files didn’t contain a copy of the employees’ Social Security card. As for falsified cards, one employee acknowledged that the card was obtained from an individual, not the Social Security Administration. Another worker used a federal tax ID number and said he was applying for permanent residency in the U.S.

However, in two instances, the auditor’s office determined employees’ numbers were incorrectly entered into the system, and were later determined to be valid.

UNC agreed to follow the auditor’s recommendations. These include investigating keypunch errors, systematically verifying numbers when employees are hired, and checking all numbers against the database each quarter.

“It is important to point out this was an audit initiated by the state, and UNC fully complied with the recommendations,” says Lynn Wooten, UNC Health Care spokesman. As for the employees whose numbers were determined to be falsified or invalid, Wooten says, “Those folks are gone.”

Of the 17 people found to have invalid numbers, nine resigned and eight were fired.

More than 5,000 people work at the N.C. Memorial, Women’s, Children’s and Neuroscience hospitals that are under the UNC Health System.

Employers who knowingly hire or employ undocumented workers can be fined up to $3,000 per employee, sentenced to six months in jail or both. However, Richard Rocha, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says that office “is not involved with the case at this time.”

Wooten says the focus of the review was on Social Security numbers, not employees’ immigration status. “We don’t know how many were undocumented immigrants and it’s not our responsibility to turn them in.”