COVID unemployment insurance fraudsters sentenced in Georgia

SMYRNA, Ga. — A Symrna man and his accomplice have been convicted for their role in a major fraud case involving false claims for COVID-related Unemployment Insurance benefits. Two state employment agencies conned in five states for a total of $3.3 million in fraudulent profits.

The case involves diverting funds from the CARES Act, a federal program designed to help unemployed Americans at the height of the pandemic. The two men would fraudulently file UI claims on behalf of unwitting individuals to gain their advantage.

“It is shameful that unscrupulous individuals are using this public health emergency and global pandemic for their own financial gain,” said Katrina Berger, HSI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge.

A 32-year-old man obtained the personally identifiable information of more than 100 victims and used that information on apps for COVID-related UI benefits. These applications are then fraudulently filed with state employment agencies in Georgia, California, Arizona, Maryland, and Michigan.

Agents paid for approved claims by issuing debit cards that were mailed to addresses in the metro-Atlanta and Michigan areas controlled by the 32-year-old and his co-conspirators. The defendants used these debit cards at various ATMs to withdraw cash, keeping the proceeds after paying fees to their co-conspirators.

“The defendant utilized a federal program designed to provide assistance to those in need of economic assistance,” said Tommy D. Coke, US Postal Inspection Service Responsible Superintendent of the Atlanta Division.

More than 200 claims were filed with various state employment agencies between May 2020 and October 2020 using personally identifiable information from about 124 people who had no knowledge of the fraud.

As a result, state employment agencies paid an estimated $3.3 million in fraudulent claims filed under this fraudulent scheme. The men were sentenced to prison terms and ordered to pay nearly $3.5 million in damages.

“We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect UI systems from those who exploit these benefits programs,” said Mathew Broadhurst, Special Responsibility, Southeast Region, Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Labor.

This case was sponsored by the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Task Force, which is made up of federal and state agencies across Georgia dedicated to fighting COVID-related Unemployment Benefits Fraud.

If you have information about suspected attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721.

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