Bad Habit

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A diverse group of people sitting in a waiting room.

There are different types of liars. Pathological liars lie constantly to get their way. Compulsive liars lie out of habit. It’s hard to tell which kind of liar Donna Wasson, 37, of San Antonio, Tex. was, perhaps a little bit of both. She concocted lots of lies so she could collect COVID-19 unemployment assistance in Massachusetts, while also collecting unemployment benefits from Texas. (Either way you look at it, her lying habit led her straight to court. Did no one ever tell her that honesty is always the best policy?)

Wasson lied about where she lived, the number of dependents she had, and claimed she worked in Massachusetts when the COVID-19 pandemic began. (Apparently, she lied so she could seek Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Fraudsters are always looking for easy money.) PUA was a temporary federal unemployment assistance program provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. (It ended in September.)

Wasson was receiving unemployment benefits from the Texas Workplace Commission when she fraudulently applied for unemployment benefits from Massachusetts. Not only did she try to secure PUA benefits for herself, but she also assisted a former employee of the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) with filing several fake unemployment claims using multiple stolen identities. (It’s rare that fraudsters like to share the wealth but I’m sure the former DUA employee helped her carry out her scheme by providing inside knowledge.)

The whole idea behind PUA is that it was supposed to provide unemployment insurance benefits for people who were not eligible for other types of unemployment benefits. This includes folks who were self-employed, independent contractors or gig economy workers. (The program was not for people who like to scam others out of money they don’t deserve.) 

Wasson ended up pleading guilty to three counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. When sentenced in March, she could receive up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 for the wire fraud charges. She could also get two years behind bars, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 for the identity theft charge. (Let’s hope that the sentence handed down will help this fraudster learn how to break her bad habit of lying so she can become an honest woman.)

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

BOSTON — 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.