The Wild West Meets Boston Harbor

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Unemployment claim form on an office table.

A Texas woman has admitted to her involvement in a scheme to fraudulently claim COVID-19-related unemployment assistance in Massachusetts. (It seems that everything is bigger in Texas, even the fraud.)

Donna Wasson, 37, of San Antonio recently pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud in Boston. To obtain Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Wasson lied about her address, lied about the number of dependents she had, and falsely claimed she worked in Massachusetts at the time when the pandemic hit. (She’s lucky the state arrested her before any angry Bostonians found out she was stealing from them.)

The PUA that Wasson fraudulently obtained, is a temporary federal unemployment assistance program created to provide benefits for people who are not eligible for other types of unemployment benefits, such as those who are self-employed, independent contractors or gig economy workers. (Wasson didn’t meet a single one of the criteria for receiving unemployment benefits. Go figure.)

At the time the fraud took place, Wasson was living in San Antonio and receiving unemployment benefits from the Texas Workplace Commission. Despite her Texas residency, she fraudulently applied for and received Massachusetts unemployment benefits. (Last I checked, you can’t be in two places at once.) 

Wasson also helped a former Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) employee with filing several fraudulent unemployment claims under multiple stolen identities. (I guess you could say she was branching out to assist others with becoming fraudsters as well. I’m sure she got her cut of the deal.)

The federal charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.  The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for March 8, 2022.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Texas woman pleads guilty to COVID-19 unemployment fraud in Massachusetts,” published by WCVB on November 9, 2021.

A Texas woman has admitted to her involvement in a scheme to fraudulently claim COVID-19-related unemployment assistance in Massachusetts, according to federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said 37-year-old Donna Wasson, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud in Boston federal court on Monday.

 

 

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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.