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, 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.