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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Michigan

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Two Defendants Plead Guilty to Unemployment Fraud Scheme

DETROIT - Two defendants pleaded guilty today to charges related to unemployment insurance benefit fraud schemes, announced Acting United States Attorney Saima Mohsin.

Joining in the announcement were Special Agent-in-Charge Timothy Waters, Federal Bureau of Investigation;  Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and Julia Dale, Director of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Pleading guilty were Mitchacole Johnson, 45, of Shelby Township, and Larry Witherspoon, 46, of Harper Woods. Both pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and will be sentenced before United States District Judge Gershwin Drain on March 22, 2022.

According to court records, Johnson and Witherspoon are responsible for filing at least 66 claims for fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits in at least 4 states, including Michigan. Their illegal activity caused actual losses of over $1.3 million and attempted losses of nearly $3.5 million. Johnson filed a number of claims in her own name, while Witherspoon filed multiple claims in the names of people who had names similar to his own, such as “Lawrence Witherspoon”. Both Johnson and Witherspoon filed their claims using other people’s Social Security Numbers and had the benefits deposited into a variety of bank accounts, some connected to pre-paid debit cards.

These cases are both being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ryan A. Particka. The investigations are being conducted jointly by agents from the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Updated December 10, 2021