There’s Nothing Funny About Fraud

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

Being a stand-up comedian in the time of COVID-19 has been difficult, to say the least. There is nothing funny about a pandemic that has caused undue stress and strain. It’s hard to make a living entertaining people when a communicable disease was raging across the country and comedy clubs were closed for business. Omar Thompson, 39, of Paterson, New Jersey, surely experienced the loss of bookings and a steady paycheck. Sadly, he turned to fraud to make up for lost income.

Thompson, who gained fame by appearing on “One Mic Stand” with Kevin Hart in 2010, pleaded guilty to submitting more than 100 fraudulent unemployment claims in Massachusetts. He and a co-conspirator from Springfield, Mass., fraudulently obtained COVID-19-related unemployment benefits from the Massachusetts Unemployment Assistance for individuals who were not eligible to receive the benefits.

The COVID-19-related unemployment fraud scheme involved Thompson and his Springfield co-conspirator, who became quite adept at submitting claims for people who were either living or working outside of Massachusetts. Thompson also submitted his fair share and received monetary kickbacks from the individuals who received unemployment benefits.

Court documents show that the co-conspirator offered to submit a claim for Thompson, who lives in New Jersey, not Massachusetts. Thompson sent the co-conspirator an email with his personal information to facilitate the filing. Fast forward about a month to when investigators said Thompson sent the co-conspirator an email with the subject line, “more family.” He listed his father-in-law and brother-in-law, including their personal information to file additional claims. Again, none of Thompson’s relatives lived in Massachusetts. (Apparently, Thompson sent electronic transfers to the co-conspirator totaling $1,400. Perhaps those payments were kickbacks for the illegal services.)

But that’s not all. On May 27, Thompson created an email account under the name “SelfEmploymentBenefits” so that he could collect personal information from others who also wanted to have unemployment claims filed for them. (Why not jump in and make a few extra bucks?) Court documents show that Thompson received the personal information of an individual who did not live in Massachusetts and he subsequently filed a bogus unemployment claim on that person’s behalf.

Approximately $1.2 million in payments were made for the illegal claims submitted. (Around half of those claims were made for people living outside of Massachusetts.) Thompson recruited people from other states to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Massachusetts, submitted claims for them and received kickback payments for his services. (I doubt anyone will be laughing when Thompson is sentenced on March 22, 2022.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Comedian Omar Thompson committed COVID unemployment fraud with co-conspirator from Springfield; scheme resulted in $1.2 million in claims, DOJ says,” published by masslive.com on November 12, 2021.

A New Jersey comedian who had appeared on “One Mic Stand” with Kevin Hart in 2010 has pleaded guilty after being charged with submitting more than 100 fraudulent unemployment claims in Massachusetts along with a co-conspirator in Springfield.

According to the Massachusetts U.S. District Attorney, Omar Thompson, 39, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of wire fraud conspiracy. Thompson, authorities alleged, was part of a scheme involving fraudulently obtaining COVID-19-related unemployment benefits.

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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.