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Unemployment insurance form on a table.

The first train robbery in American history was done by brothers John and Simeon Reno in 1966, making off with $13,000 from a train stopped in Indiana. In 1873, notorious outlaw Jesse James became the first bandit to hold up a moving train. And Butch Cassidy’s legendary train robbery exploits were the first made into a film.

Now we have a new kind of robbery, involving Amtrak train employees Lizette Berrios Lathon and Kenneth Andrew Lathon. There was no need to use horses or bandanas for these two robbers. Just a computer and few stolen identities will suffice. On November 22, 2022, both former Amtrak employees pled guilty to COVID-19 unemployment fraud.

While working on the train, Lizette and Kenneth generated their scheme filing fraudulent claims using stolen identities that were readily available to Lizette. In addition to her job as a service attendant for Amtrak, Lizette also operated at least three tax preparation businesses in California: Miracle Tax Service, Hardcore Taxes, and Lathon LLC. Lizette and Kenneth submitted fraudulent applications with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) for Unemployment Insurance benefits using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth that Lizette obtained from former clients of her tax preparation businesses without their permission.

Of course, the Lathons also inflated the income of the named claimants in order to receive the maximum benefit amounts. No fraudster would miss an opportunity to max out a benefit! Many of the stolen identities didn’t even live in the state of California but that didn’t stop the state from sending to the Lathons about $998,630 for benefits in debit cards.

Sentencing is scheduled on April 13, 2023.

Shout out to the Department of Labor in this railroad outlaw investigation.

Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on an article “Former Amtrak employee and husband plead guilty in COVID unemployment insurance fraud case” published by Trains on November 23, 2022

A former Amtrak employee and her husband have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for conspiring to steal nearly $1 million in COVID-19-related unemployment insurance benefits, while she also fraudulently obtained more than $63,000 in sickness benefits while working at Amtrak.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced in a press release that Lizette Berrios Lathon, 45, of Moreno Valley, Calif., pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and wire fraud. Her husband, Kenneth Andrew Lathon, 48, of Moreno Valley, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

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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.