Four People Sentenced This Week For Roles In Pandemic Unemployment Fraud And Mail Fraud Program | USAO-WDVA
ABINGDON, Virginia – Four other residents of southwest Virginia who conspired with more than 30 others to defraud the United States government by filing claims for more than $ 499,000 in unemployment benefits in the event of a pandemic and committing mail fraud and other offenses were sentenced this week to federal prison.
Randall Johnson, 42, of Castlewood, Virginia, was sentenced to 24 months in prison yesterday. Today Steven Mullins, 34, of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, was sentenced to 27 months, Ajay Johnson, 26, of Fruitland Park, Fla., Received a 30-month sentence, and Patrick Payne, 43 , from Big Stone Gap, was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
“The nearly $ 500,000 in funds stolen by this plot could have gone to Virginians in urgent need of support during a pandemic, but instead fell into the hands of those who do not deserve it,” the US Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh. âThe sentences handed down this week prove that this Justice Department will not be on hold as individuals take advantage of programs designed to help our country recover from this once-in-a-generation health crisis. “
“These conspirators thought they could play with the system and defraud the government in times of national crisis,” said special agent in charge of the IRS-CI’s Washington DC field office Darrell Waldon. âWe will continue to eliminate Covid-19 fraud and bring these bad actors to justice. “
Randall Johnson, Steven Mullins, Ajay Johnson and Patrick Payne have all sought to enrich themselves financially by embarking on a conspiracy to submit bogus Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims for ineligible claimants, including including prisoners. The Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Labor and its partners, such as the Virginia Employment Commission and the US Attorney’s Office, will continue to work together to preserve the integrity of the PUA program by vigorously prosecuting those who commit this. type of fraud, âsaid Special Agent in Charge Syreeta Scott, Philadelphia area, Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Labor.
According to court documents, R. Johnson, Mullins, Payne and A. Johnson conspired with others to file pandemic unemployment benefits claims through the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) website. The program involved submitting claims for various people who were not eligible to receive pandemic unemployment benefits, including many inmates held in regional jails in southwest Virginia. To date, 23 of the co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to their roles in the larger plot.
Members of the conspiracy lied about VEC’s statements under the scheme to make filers appear eligible for benefits. Since pandemic unemployment benefits were paid weekly, each of these statements rechecked and recertified the false statements numerous times throughout the program.
In total, the participants in the conspiracy filed fraudulent claims for approximately 37 people, resulting in the payment of at least $ 499,000 in false claims. In addition to the defendants, eight co-conspirators have already entered into plea deals with the United States.
The Department of Labor – Office of the Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Norton Police Department and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.
Assistant United States Attorney Daniel J. Murphy continued the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Working Group to mobilize the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to combat and prevent the pandemic fraud. The Working Group strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable national and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by scaling up and integrating mechanisms coordination, identifying resources and techniques for uncovering fraudulent actors and their programs, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Enforcement (NCDF) hotline at 866-720 -5721 or by accessing the NCDF web complaint form at: https: // www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.