Prison is No Laughing Matter

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Hand with tweezers holding id photo over passport as if forging the travel documents

Punishment for identity theft fraud is no joke, and definitely not during a pandemic. Emilee Fenton and Dalton Brewer, both 24, of Gilmer, Tex., are each facing up to 15 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit identity theft related to COVID economic impact payments. (Perhaps these youngsters thought they’d be laughing all the way to the bank.) 

Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) or stimulus checks were intended to reduce the financial burden of COVID-19 on individuals and their families. (These two fraudsters exploited this crisis for their own financial gain.) 

It appears that from approximately November 2019 through June 2020, Brewer and Fenton possessed and conspired to use the stolen identities of their victims – including names, Social Security numbers, and birthdates – in connection with theft of government money, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, theft of mail, and fraudulent use or possession of identifying information. (The coronavirus pandemic was the perfect storm for these two to expand their illegal operation.)

Fenton used the stolen identities to obtain two EIPs. She was charged for theft of government money and aggravated identity theft for her role in that scheme. Fenton and Brewer were indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with conspiracy to unlawfully transfer, possess, and use a means of identification. They both pleaded guilty to identity theft fraud in March 2021.

Here’s an interesting tidbit – out of more than $2 trillion in relief programs funded by the CARES Act, $300 billion of that total amount was allocated for EIPs. (I’m sure many a fraudster has dreamed about landing that nice pot of gold.)

While these two fraudsters only succeeded in stealing EIPs belonging to two victims in this case, you can be sure that other unscrupulous individuals attempted to do the same thing. As more investigations ensue, count on not being shocked to hear how many individuals were victimized by similar scams. (I highly doubt that Fenton and Brewer will be laughing much when their sentences are delivered. Afterall, serving time in prison is no laughing matter.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Upshur County Individuals Guilty of Conspiring to Commit ID Theft for COVID Economic Impact Payments,” dated March 23, 2021.

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment this afternoon against Jeremie Saintvil of Delray Beach, Florida, for fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain over $1,500,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Saintvil, 46, is charged with bank fraud, making false statements to a federally insured institution, aggravated identity theft, and making false statements. Jason R. Coody, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the indictment.

 

In addition to allegedly submitting a fraudulent PPP loan application for a fictious business in his own name, Saintvil also allegedly stole the identities of eight elderly individuals – seven of whom were residents of senior living facilities and one who was related to him – as a part of his complex scheme to obtain more than $1.5 million in forgivable loans. In doing so, Saintvil is alleged to have submitted fraudulent loan applications to multiple financial institutions, including one headquartered in Alachua County, Florida.

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.