Scams You Haven’t Even Dreamed Of

Unemployment claim form on an office table.

In the movie “Shawshank Redemption” the lead character, a prisoner named Andy famously says “He’s got scams you haven’t even dreamed of. Kickbacks on his kickbacks. There’s a river of dirty money running through this place.” That is what you could say about real life prisoner, Kenneth Ray Hawkins. Hawkins, while an inmate at the state-run Deuel Vocational Institution in California, pleaded guilty on August 1, 2022 to a unemployment insurance scheme that netted him almost $1 million.

From the comfort of his jail cell at DVI, Hawkins collected personal identifiable information, including the names and Social Security numbers, of California prison inmates and other individuals and used the identities and an unauthorized cell phone to submit dozens of fraudulent claims between June 2020 and January 2021 seeking Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

Each claim filed by Hawkins, stated that the claimants had recently lost employment from businesses or were unable to find employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fun fact, the incarcerated don’t get to work while they are in jail. There are no job opportunities behind bars. Furthermore, it is against the law to file for unemployment benefits!

In the applications, Hawkins requested that the benefits be mailed to various California and Nevada addresses that were under the control of one or more co-conspirators. EDD approved at least 60 of the fraudulent claims and authorized Bank of America to mail out EDD debit cards containing benefits. The scheme sought over $1 million and resulted in EDD paying out over $890,000.

Great job by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in the investigation of this case.

Hawkins is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 24, 2022, which will take into consideration his incompleted time at DVI.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article posted in the Victorville Daily Press on August 2, 2022

Former inmate pleads guilty to $1 million fraud scheme that involved Barstow residents

Rene Ray De La Cruz

The Department of Justice announced that a former inmate pleaded guilty to participating in a $1 million unemployment insurance benefits fraud scheme that involved several Barstow residents.

Kenneth Ray Hawkins, 47, formerly an inmate at the Deuel Vocational Institution, a California state prison in Tracy, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

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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.