Truth is Stranger than Fiction

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Real life can often be stranger than fiction as exemplified by an article posted on WKYC.com, which tells about a man who created multiple fictitious companies and non-existent employees in order to bilk unemployment insurance benefits from four different states. He and three co-conspirators were able to execute an elaborate scheme that collected more than $1.1 million in undeserved government benefits through the use of the stolen personal identity information belonging to real victims.

According to court documents, the fraudster in this case created state unemployment insurance accounts for numerous fictitious companies supposedly located in Ohio, California, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Illinois. Then he filed claims for bogus employees working for the fake companies. (Apparently, the fake companies laid off their fake employees, who needed a real income.) Realbenefit debit cards were issued to the fictional employees of the fictional companies and mailed to real addresses in Ohio. (The fraudster in this case had a little help from three co-conspirators. They helped him withdraw cash at various ATMs in Ohio.)

The fraudster, who let greed be his guide, spent nearly $17,000 of the fraudulently obtained benefits to pay off a car loan for his Jaguar and several months of rent on his apartment. (How responsible of him to use stolen money to pay off his debts.)

The 35-year-old pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison. His three co-conspirators were also found guilty and sentenced for their part in the scam that lasted more than two years.

The judge did a good job in handing out a sentence that sends a strong message. (I’m sure this fraudster wishes the terms were fiction, but the truth of the matter is that his illegal acts carry consequences.) Let’s hope the justice system’s message sends a clear message to others contemplating similar crimes – stealing and using innocent victim’s identities to gain undeserved government benefits will not be tolerated.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Cleveland Heights Man Sentenced for $1.1 M Unemployment Fraud,” posted on WKYC.com on July 28, 2015.

A Cleveland Heights man was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for conspiring to defraud states out of more than $1.1 million in unemployment insurance benefits, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

Juan Sanders, 35, was sentenced to 139 months in federal prison. He previously pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.