Like Mother, Like Brother

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It’s hard enough to steal unemployment benefits using your own identity. Attempting to use other people’s identities to do so is a real effort – one that definitely isn’t worth the risk – but some people are still willing to take it. Hartford Courant reports on a woman and her two sons, who were caught registering phony businesses with state unemployment programs, stealing identities to list as ”employees” and then filing and collecting fraudulent unemployment claims on their behalf. (Spoiler: This complicated scheme didn’t work out so well for them.)

The report says the sons were primarily responsible for concocting and registering the businesses, filing fake wage reports and using strangers’ Social Security numbers to pose as employees that were entitled to unemployment benefits. (”I’ve finally got it! We’ll simply pretend to be unemployed, to become rich! It’s genius!”) They abused nearly 30 different identities to steal more than $120,000 from states across New England, as well as Washington, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They have since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, they could be imprisoned for two decades.

For her part, their mother pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and misuse of a Social Security number. She’s already in prison, where she’s serving a 51-month sentence. She’ll be on probation for three years following her release and must pay the state unemployment programs that she defrauded $125,000 in restitution.

While it may appear as though ”Joe the Plumber” deserves unemployment benefits, appearances can be deceiving. ”Joe” actually could be a victim in a large-scale fraud scheme similar to what is presented by the Hartford Courant. All angles should be considered.

The tip that ultimately led to this fraud scheme, though was when this fraudster registered a phony business with one of the state Department of Labor divisions so verifying businesses are extremely important and can help uncover and stop unemployment related fraud in its tracks.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”Woman Who Defrauded Unemployment Gets 51 Months In Federal Prison,” a report written by David Owens and published by Hartford Courant on January 6, 2016.

A Georgia woman and her two sons have been convicted in federal court in Hartford of defrauding unemployment insurance programs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New Jersey. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Cohran and her two sons, Christopher Cohran, 26, and Nathan Cohran, 30, used the websites of several state unemployment programs to register businesses that had no employees, operations or expenses. They then created phony wage reports and used the Social Security numbers of people without their knowledge. They then posed as those employees to collect benefits, the government said.

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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.