For Better or For Worse, but Mostly Worse

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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
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.