Two Federal Inmates Charged With Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fraud | USAO-MDPA
SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Pennsylvania announced that Christina Covey, 34, formerly of Drums, Pa., And Fredy Mendoza, 33, formerly of Hazleton, Pa., Were charged yesterday by a federal grand jury of fraud obtaining pandemic unemployment benefits between July and October 2020.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA) was created by the CARES Act of March 2020, as part of the United States government’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public health and economic well-being. The PUA program was designed to provide unemployment benefits to people ineligible for regular unemployment benefit or extended unemployment benefits.
According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges Covey and Mendoza conspired to file bogus PUA claims on behalf of Mendoza and another inmate, claiming unemployment benefits for both by claiming they were fired due to COVID. -19 pandemic and available for work, despite incarceration on underlying federal drug trafficking charges. The conspirators then filed fake weekly certifications needed to continue receiving PUA benefits, ultimately obtaining tens of thousands of dollars, which were sent by debit card to Covey, before his own incarceration in the underlying federal case. drug trafficking. Covey is also accused of lying to federal agents about filing PUA applications for Mendoza and another inmate.
âAn important part of the mission of the Office of the Inspector General is to investigate allegations of fraud related to unemployment insurance programs,â said Syreeta Scott, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia area, Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Labor. “We will continue to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of allegations.”
The case was investigated by the Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant US Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is continuing 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 responsible for 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 web complaint form at: https: // www. .justice.gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The indictments are just allegations. All those charged are presumed innocent until found guilty by a court.
A sentence for a guilty verdict is imposed by the judge after reviewing applicable federal sentencing laws and federal sentencing guidelines.
The maximum penalty under federal law for the most serious offenses is 20 years imprisonment, a supervised release sentence after imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public, and provide for the educational, professional and medical needs of the defendant. For these reasons, the maximum statutory penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential penalty for a specific defendant.
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