While pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire on September 6, 2021, fraud cases are sure to continue for many months and even years to come. According to the Department of Labor, almost 13 million people were still collecting jobless aid by mid-July, with 9.4 million receiving assistance from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) programs. (There’s nothing like a global pandemic to bring out the worst in deceitful individuals.)
One of the most recent prosecutions for pandemic-related fraud is Jeremy Short, 26, of Norton, Va. Short waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud with respect to benefits authorized and paid in connection with a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency. (In other words, he committed unemployment fraud.)
Short and 35 other co-conspirators carried out their unemployment fraud scheme by collecting and using the personal identification information of 15 inmates in custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections. (It is true that prisoners are unemployed, but they cannot receive unemployment fraud benefits.) Together, they filed fraudulent claims for at least 37 individuals seeking pandemic-related unemployment benefits. The U.S. suffered a loss of at least $499,000 due to their illegal actions.
Chalk this win up to the efforts of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force that partners with agencies across government to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The successful investigation and prosecution left today’s fraudster with a sentence of 27 months behind bars for his crimes.
If you have any information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form here.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Norton Man Sentenced in $499,000 Unemployment Fraud Scheme,” dated August 16, 2021.
ABINGDON, Va. – A Norton, Virginia man was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for conspiring with others to defraud the government of more than $499,000 and to commit mail fraud.
According to court documents, Jeremy Short, 26, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to defraud the United States and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud with respect to benefits authorized and paid in connection with a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency.