Time Will Tell

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Unemployment claim form on an office table.

It takes a bold person to plead “not guilty” when the evidence appears to point to guilt. But we have to remember that charges are not convictions, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Lestreonia Renee Rodrigue, 26, of Plaquemine, La., was indicted on three counts of mail fraud and wire fraud related to unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud. The indictment explains that between July 2020 and June 2021, Rodrigue submitted unemployment benefits claims in her names and the names of other individuals across multiple states, including California. She also submitted claims for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) benefits, using the names of fake businesses and including falsified business profits and losses.

Apparently, Rodrigue was skilled at obtaining personal identification information including names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers. She allegedly submitted more fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits in their names, some with their knowledge and consent, and some without. She also used social media to help her find additional personal information so she could file as many unemployment claims as possible. (She was like a kid in a candy store.)

Rodrigue doled out some of the funds she received to some of her co-conspirators, but kept most of the funds, herself. The funds obtained totaled more than $500,000 and were loaded on to prepaid debit cards that were sent through the mail.

Fraudsters like to diversify once they have found one scheme that works. Rodrigue allegedly worked up a scam to defraud the Small Business Administration by filing fake PPP applications.

(I guess she figured if it worked o.k. the first time, try something new.) The application was submitted in the business name of “Lestreonia Rodrigue”. (Note to self – if you want to make it hard for investigators to find you, don’t use your real name.)  

To carry out the PPP scam, Rodrigue submitted a forged bank statement, false tax documents, and misrepresented some of her answers on the PPP applications. Her efforts yielded $20,833, which was deposited into her bank account. (Obviously, she was not entitled to these funds or you would not be reading about her.)

The case is currently being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor. Time will tell whether or not this woman from Louisiana is guilty.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Plaquemine woman indicted on PPP, unemployment fraud,” published by Plaquemine Post South on October 22, 2021.

A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging a Plaquemine woman with mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with unemployment and Paycheck Protection Program fraud.

Lestreonia Renee Rodrigue, 26, appeared for arraignment Oct. 22 and pled not guilty to the pending charges, according to a news release.

 

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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.