Woman pleads to CARES Act fraud

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A Ridgeland woman faces 10 years in prison after she pleaded guilty in late August to unemployment insurance benefits fraud related to the CARES Act.

Judith Ann Middleton, 71, of Ridgeland pleaded guilty on Aug. 20 to the theft of government funds involving unemployment insurance benefits fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Mississippi. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca made the announcement alongside U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Shawn Wolfe.

“Middleton is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18 and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison,” A press release from LaMarca’s office said. “A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”

The U.S. Secret Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meghan M. McCalla and William Dieters prosecuted the case.

According to court documents, in May 2020 it was discovered that unemployment insurance benefits from the state of Washington had been deposited into Middleton’s bank account. The unemployment insurance benefits were federally subsidized through the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Investigation into those benefits revealed that they were deposited under other individuals’ names,” the release said.

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One source of relief provided by the CARES Act is the authorization that expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by COVID-19, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Middleton’s case is being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force. 

In response to the unprecedented scope of Unemployment Insurance fraud, the Department of Justice established the NUIFTF, which is a prosecutor-led multi-agency task force with representatives from FBI, DOL-OIG, IRS-CI, HSI, DHS-OIG, USPIS, USSS, SSA-OIG, FDIC-OIG, and other agencies. 

Members of the NUIFTF are working with state workforce agencies, financial institutions, and other law enforcement partners throughout the nation to fight UI fraud.

“Consumers should be vigilant in light of these threats and take the appropriate steps to safeguard themselves,” the release states.

The release says that anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866‑720‑5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.





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