For Better or For Worse, but Mostly Worse

A diverse group of people sitting in a waiting room.

Farren Ricketts, 30, of Lee County, Va., pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft for carrying out a pandemic-related unemployment fraud scheme.

According to court documents, Ricketts conspired with others to file claims for pandemic-related unemployment benefits. Apparently, Ricketts filed claims for individuals who were ineligible to receive the pandemic relief benefits, including her husband. (She was really testing her husband’s commitment to the “for better or for worse” vow.)

The Virginia woman also unrightfully filed claims on behalf of prison inmates. (Prisoners are unemployed due to being convicted of committing a crime, not because they have lost their job due to no fault of their own.)

Ricketts illegally obtained the prison inmates’ personally identifiable information and submitted unemployment claims on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. (Since she has the personal information of many inmates, perhaps she will know who to befriend when she joins them in prison.)

Ricketts got creative and conjured up a fictitious business entity, Ricketts Advisory, LLC to back up her scheme. She advertised her business as a financial services company that aimed to assist those filing for pandemic unemployment benefits. (That was very clever of her to do.)

Between May 2020 and February 2021, Ricketts attempted to defraud the government of more than $699,124 through filing over 100 fictitious claims. (Her time would have been better spent actually starting a legitimate business.) To better support her claims, these files included fake documents, like IRS forms that shared fictitious pre-pandemic earnings.

Ricketts pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Sentencing is scheduled for October 29, 2021.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Lee County Woman Pleads Guilty to Nearly $700,000 Unemployment Fraud Scheme,” published on June 15, 2021.

ABINGDON, Va. – A Lee County woman pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the government of more than $699,124 in pandemic-related unemployment funds, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Farren Ricketts, 30, and others conspired to file fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment benefits through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) website. The scheme involved Ricketts filing claims for various individuals, including her husband and others known to be ineligible to receive pandemic employment 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.