Unemployed Behind Bars

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Unemployment claim form on an office table.

It would be an understatement to say that it has been very tough on individuals who have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But it is particularly egregious when unscrupulous individuals take advantage of the situation and rob others of unemployment benefits they deserve during hard times.

Shaneesha White, 25, of Buffalo, New York, is one such fraudster who was recently convicted for committing wire fraud. She applied for unemployment benefits multiple times throughout the pandemic, once under false pretenses using her own name. She also used the personal information of two other individuals to create benefit accounts with the intent to collect unemployment benefits under their names. (There’s nothing much worse than having your identity stolen and being exploited for benefits. It creates a mess.)

White deposited the benefits she received in her name and in the names of her victims into bank accounts held at Key Bank. She used ATM cards to make cash withdrawals, $48,833.15 to be exact. (I’m guessing she used the money on personal expenditures, while others without jobs had great difficulty making ends meet.)

White admitted to applying for unemployment benefits under false pretenses. (A wise move seeing that she was caught red-handed.) She pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving benefits connected to a presidentially declared national emergency. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

White is facing up to 30 years in prison and paying a $1,000,000 fine all before her 30th birthday. Let’s hope the judge provides a just sentence and this young fraudster learns from her mistakes. (One thing is for sure – she won’t be able to collect unemployment while serving time for her crime, whether there’s an ongoing pandemic or not.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Buffalo Woman Pleads Guilty To COVID Fraud,” September 2, 2021.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Shaneesha White, 25, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo to wire fraud involving benefits connected to a presidentially declared national emergency. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle P. Rossi, who is handling the case, stated that between June 2020 and February 2021, the defendant defrauded the New York State Department of Labor by fraudulently collecting unemployment insurance benefits, to which she was not entitled. White applied for and received benefits in her own name, under false and fraudulent pretenses. The defendant and others also used the personal identifying information of two individuals fraudulently to create benefit accounts and collect benefits in the names of these individuals. The benefit money was deposited into bank accounts held and controlled by the defendant at Key Bank.  Key Bank also issued ATM cards in both the White’s name and in the names of the two individuals, which the defendant used to make cash withdrawals of the benefits. As a result of the fraud, the defendant unlawfully collected $48,833.15 in benefits.

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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.