SMYRNA, Ga. — A Symrna man and his accomplice have been sentenced for their role in a major fraud case involving false claims for COVID-related Unemployment Insurance benefits. The two defrauded state workforce agencies in five states of a total of $3.3 million in fraudulently obtained benefits.
The case involved diverting funds from the CARES Act, a federal program designed to assist unemployed Americans at the height of the pandemic. The two men would fraudulently submit UI claims in the name of unwitting individuals to obtain their benefits.
“It is disgraceful that unscrupulous individuals used a public health emergency and global pandemic for their own financial gain,” said HSI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger.
A 32-year-old man obtained the personal identifying information of more than 100 victims and used that information on applications for COVID-related UI benefits. These applications were then fraudulently submitted to state workforce agencies in Georgia, California, Arizona, Maryland and Michigan.
Agencies paid approved claims by issuing debit cards mailed to addresses in the metro-Atlanta area and Michigan controlled by the 32-year-old and their co-conspirator. The defendants used these debit cards at various ATMs to withdraw cash, keeping the proceeds after paying a fee to their co-conspirator.
"The defendant took advantage of a federal program designed to provide relief to those who were in need of economic assistance,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Over 200 claims were submitted to various state workforce agencies between May 2020 and October 2020 using the personal identifying information of approximately 124 individuals who did not know about the fraud.
As a result, state workforce agencies paid out roughly $3.3 million in bogus claims submitted in this fraud scheme. The men have been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling nearly $3.5 million.
"We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to safeguard the UI system from those who exploit these benefit programs,” said Mathew Broadhurst, Special Agent-in-Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
The case was sponsored by the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Task Force, which comprises federal and state agencies throughout Georgia dedicated to combating COVID-related Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud.
If you have information about alleged 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.