Hustling in Jail

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Unemployment claim form on an office table.

You may have recently read a Fraud of the Day blog about an inmate named Levi Stroud, whose mother was filing for CARES Act unemployment benefits under his name, even though he was serving time in prison. It turns out that Stroud and his mother, Christina Weigner aren’t the only ones who have committed unemployment fraud using CARES Act funding.

The Western Pennsylvania COVID-19 Fraud Task Force alleges inmates incarcerated at eight state and county jails used jail phones to contact people outside of the prison, directing them to file for unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA).

One of the latest prisoners to not get away with stealing unemployment benefits is Jerome D. Poole, 33. His ex-girlfriend, Tracy Ann Stankiewicz, 49, of New Kensington, is now in a bit of trouble for committing unemployment fraud on his behalf. (Let’s be honest. She’s in a lot of trouble.)

Stankiewicz filed an electronic unemployment claim on behalf of her ex-boyfriend, who was serving time at Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institute Greene in Waynesburg. Court documents show that he claimed his unemployment status was a direct result of a pandemic or a major disaster. His application also asserted that if offered a job, he would be available to accept it. (Perhaps, if he could work remotely, things might have been different, but I doubt the prison Wifi could have supported that.) Another important bit of information – the address on the unemployment claim belonged to Poole’s ex-girlfriend, Stankiewicz.

During an interview with law enforcement, Stankiewicz admitted she received approximately $11,000 from the CARES Act due to her illegal acts. According to court documents, she stated that she “made the dumbest mistake,” and agreed to return the $11,000 received. (Good move.)

Stankiewicz pleaded guilty to committing fraud in connection with emergency benefits. She faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Poole has been charged with aiding the filing of the PUA benefits claim.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Westmoreland County Woman Pleads Guilty to Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Fraud,” dated February 11, 2021.

PITTSBURGH, PA- A resident of Arnold, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to a charge of fraud, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Tracy Ann Stankiewicz, age 49, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone.

 

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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.