Malden man convicted of COVID fraud and identity theft | USAO-MA
BOSTON – A man from Malden was convicted today for submitting fraudulent requests for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The federal PUA program provides unemployment-related benefits to people who have been affected by COVID-19.
Wagner Sozi, 33, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to 39 months in prison and two years on probation. Sozi was also ordered to pay for the confiscation and restitution in the amount of approximately $ 110,000. On May 13, 2021, Sozi pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of misrepresentation.
Sozi has engaged in a scheme to use stolen identity information to open accounts, make purchases, rent cars, and apply for PUA benefits. Sozi obtained this stolen identity information from a variety of sources, including a Cambridge real estate company that collected personally identifiable information from people looking to rent local apartments. Sozi was living with an individual who worked for the real estate company, and various files belonging to the company were found in the apartment. Many Sozi-related identity theft victims were clients of the real estate company, including at least one person on whose behalf a fraudulent PUA claim was filed.
Sozi, along with an accomplice, opened store credit accounts at Massachusetts Staples stores under various false identities, then used those accounts to purchase over $ 80,000 in Visa gift cards. Sozi and his co-conspirator submitted fraudulent requests for Staples’ store credit accounts using the personal identifying information of more than 60 victims, which Voltaire processed in exchange for $ 8,000 in bribes. In addition to using stolen identity information to open Staples credit accounts, Sozi used that information to buy a Rolex for over $ 15,000, withdraw $ 5,000 in cash, and rent a Dodge Charger and a Ford Mustang, which he did not return.
On October 26, 2021, Voltaire pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is expected to be sentenced on February 28, 2022.
Acting US Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Frederick J. Regan, Special Agent in charge of US Secret Service, local Boston office; and Jonathan Mellone, special agent in charge of the US Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General, labor racketeering and fraud investigations, made the announcement today. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Unemployment Assistance, Program Integrity Unit; the Massachusetts State Police; and the Malden, Medford and Braintree Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Abely, head of Mendell’s Criminal Division, 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 allegations of 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 via the NCDF online complaint form at: https: // www. .justice.gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.