Three Indicted in Scheme to Fraudulently Obtain at Least $409,000 in Maryland Unemployment Benefits

June 14, 2012

Baltimore, Maryland - A federal grand jury indicted Kevin Bernard Smith, age 47; Sheila Denis Willis, age 47; and Shekia Denise Edwards, age 25, all of Baltimore, on charges of conspiracy to commit and committing credit/debit card fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, related to a scheme to fraudulently obtain at least $409,000 in Maryland unemployment benefits.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Barcus, U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

According to the nine-count indictment, from January 2010, until May 2012, Smith, Willis and Edwards obtained identifying information, including, names, dates of birth and social security numbers of Maryland residents, which they used, without those individuals’ knowledge or consent, to fraudulently obtain Maryland unemployment benefits, which were provided on prepaid Visa debit cards.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that Smith filed fraudulent quarterly reports with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR), under the names of fictitious Maryland companies, including the Maryland Institute of Charity. The reports falsely claimed that individuals, whose means of identification had been obtained by Smith, Willis and Edwards, had been employed by those companies and received wages. According to the indictment, Smith, Willis and Edwards would then file unemployment insurance claims with DLLR using those employees’ identities in order to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits. The indictment alleges that Smith, Willis and Edwards caused DLLR to send the prepaid Visa debit cards in the names of other people to addresses in the Baltimore metropolitan area and called DLLR on a biweekly basis to continue receiving unemployment benefits on the prepaid debit cards they fraudulently obtained.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of at least $409,000, as proceeds of the scheme.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy; a maximum of ten years in prison for credit/debit card fraud; a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud; and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft. An initial appearance has been scheduled for the defendants on June 15, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General for its work in the investigation and also thanked the Maryland DLLR for its assistance in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Clarke, who is prosecuting the case.

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