COVID Feature: Snowball Effect

Hacking and criminal concept.A hacker in a secret hiding place is neon light.

A snowball effect is described metaphorically as a process that begins as something very small, but as it gains momentum, it becomes larger, more serious, and perhaps even dangerous or devastating. Rashawn Prioleau, 35, of Charlotte, N.C., triggered an avalanche when he allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and several North and South Carolina state agencies. Now he’s sliding down the slippery slope of COVID-19 related unemployment insurance (UI) fraud and aggravated identity theft. (I have a feeling he’s going to be buried beneath an avalanche of fraud.)

Over approximately six months, Prioleau accessed the personal information of at least seven identity theft victims. (He captured names, Social Security Numbers, birth dates, and addresses. Then he used that information to illegally file for UI benefits in North and South Carolina.) He then allegedly directed the UI benefits to debit cards or bank accounts he controlled.

Court documents show that as Prioleau’s purported fraud scheme gained momentum, he also fraudulently applied for two Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) based on incorrect information. (That snowball was gaining speed and growing larger as it descended deeper into the dark abyss of fraud.) As a result of these alleged illegal actions, he received $60,397 in government-funded COVID-19 benefits he did not deserve.

Prioleau is charged with nine counts of bank fraud, two counts of making a false statement to the SBA, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. It’s important to remember that these charges are merely allegations. However, if convicted, this North Carolinian could spend a very long time behind bars and pay millions of dollars in fines. (That avalanche of fraud could very well eliminate any possibility of life outside of prison in the future.)

If you think you are a victim of coronavirus fraud or have information pertaining to fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit a complaint online using the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Federal Indictment Charges Charlotte Man for Defrauding COVID-19 Government Benefits Programs,” dated February 22, 2021.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal grand jury sitting in Charlotte has indicted Rashawn Prioleau, 35, of Charlotte, on multiple financial institution fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, for stealing more than $60,000 from government-funded COVID-19 benefit programs, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which oversees Charlotte, joins U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.




Previous articleCracking the Ethics Code
Next articleFraud Buffet

Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.