Seven Indicted for Unlawfully Obtaining Unemployment Benefits
St Louis, MO – Federal indictments were returned today against seven defendants who are accused of unlawfully obtaining unemployment benefits through the Missouri Division of Employment Security. In each case, the indictments allege that the defendants applied for and received unemployment benefits which they were ineligible to receive. In some cases, the defendants allegedly underreported their income in order to appear eligible for benefits to which they were not in fact entitled. In other cases, the defendants allegedly claimed they were available to work when they were incarcerated at the time they applied for benefits. In two cases, the defendants are alleged to have conspired with others in order to carry out their crimes. The fraudulent benefits obtained by the defendants are said to range from as little as $3,840 to as much as $24,821.
The defendants named in today’s indictments are identified as ROCKSANN COFFMAN, of St. Louis, Missouri; BELINDA GRIFFIN, of Florissant, Missouri; MARK DAVID McKAY, of St. Louis, Missouri; KIRA McLAUGHLIN, of St. Louis, Missouri; KELLI PRIOR, of Wright City, Missouri; KRISTOPHER PRIOR, of Wright City, Missouri; and BRYANT HENRY WATKINS, of Dallas, Texas.
If convicted, each count of theft of government property carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
he cases are being investigated by the Missouri Division of Employment Services, and in some cases the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Postal Service-Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Richard E. Finneran is handling the cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.