Florida man who stole more than $170,000 in Covid-19 unemployment insurance benefits sentenced to more than five years in federal prison | USAO-MD

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher sentenced Christopher Guy, 30, of Tampa, Florida, to 65 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Judge Gallagher also ordered Guy to pay $176,970 in restitution.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy Springer, Washington Regional Office, Office of the Inspector General, US Department of Labor (DOL-OIG); Postal Inspector in Charge Greg L. Torbenson of the United States Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; and Chief Gregory Der of the Howard County Police Department.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT) was signed into law on March 27, 2020 to help people in financial difficulty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Among other things, the CARES Act established the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which provided federal funds to state agencies responsible for administering unemployment benefits. FPUC funds were provided to supplement regular unemployment compensation payments to qualified applicants.

According to his plea agreement, from May 26, 2020 to August 5, 2020, Guy and his co-conspirators submitted fraudulent claims, using the personal information of victims of identity theft, claiming unemployment benefits which they did not have. not right. Applications were submitted via the Internet to the Oklahoma Job Security Commission (OESC) and other state workforce agencies. Based on the fraudulent claims, OSEC and other placement agencies disbursed benefits, including FPUC funds, through debit cards issued in the names of identity theft victims. The debit cards were mailed to addresses in Maryland and elsewhere accessible to Guy and other conspirators. Guy and his accomplices used the debit cards to withdraw cash and conduct retail transactions.

For example, between July 27 and August 5, 2020, Guy made fraudulent transactions using debit cards in the name of at least seven victims of identity theft and funded by unemployment benefits, including FPUC funds. On August 5, 2020, Guy used a debit card issued in the name of an identity theft victim to purchase a laptop computer for $2,225.99, from a retail electronics store in Elkridge, Maryland. Howard County police officers, who had been called to a possible fraudulent purchase, approached Guy in the parking lot. When questioned by officers, Guy falsely stated that he lost the receipt and made the purchase using a card he produced without a name. When officers advised that the number on the card did not match the one on the receipt reprinted by the store, Guy falsely claimed that he must have lost the card he used to purchase the laptop. Guy was later arrested by officers, who located the card used to purchase the laptop in Guy’s pocket.

A search of Guy’s vehicle by Howard County Police Department officers recovered $1,500 in cash, four debit cards issued in names other than Guy’s, several electronic devices and a room key. a hotel in Chevy Chase, Maryland. A search warrant was obtained for Guy’s hotel room and officers recovered 13 additional debit cards issued in various names, additional electronic devices, receipts from retail purchases and $11,619 in cash. DOL-OIG officers obtained surveillance footage that showed Guy using the debit cards funded by fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits at ATMs within a mile of the hotel where he was staying. Twelve of the debit cards used in these transactions were recovered from Guy or his hotel room on August 5, 2020.

A forensic examination of electronic devices seized from Guy and his hotel room revealed internet searches and browsing history relating to unemployment benefits; notes containing the mailing addresses where the fraudulent debit cards were mailed to; and a list of the last four digits of each of the 18 debit cards retrieved on August 5, 2020, each with a monetary balance listed alongside.

DOL-OIG agents also learned that the 18 debit cards seized from Guy or his hotel room were issued as a result of 16 fraudulent unemployment benefit claims submitted on behalf of identity theft victims. . The 16 fraudulent claims resulted in the disbursement of more than $176,970 in unemployment and FPUC funds, losses that were reasonably foreseeable for Guy.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the United States Department of Labor-OIG, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Howard County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean R. Delaney, who prosecuted the federal case.

For more information about the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.

# # #