Fredericksburg Family Sentenced for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Fraud, Mail Theft, and Bank Fraud Schemes
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Fredericksburg man was sentenced yesterday to 84 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution for conspiring to obtain pandemic unemployment benefits (UI) and his role in his sister’s mail theft and bank fraud scheme.
According to court documents, from in or about May 2020 through in or about January 2022, Eric Wilhoit, II, 29, conspired with Odyssey Wilhoit, 23, Jeremiah Wilhoit, 26, Dejhaun Wilhoit, 26, and others to obtain pandemic unemployment benefits. Eric Wilhoit, Odyssey Wilhoit, and Dejahun Wilhoit are family members. They conspired to apply for pandemic unemployment benefits in their own names and in the names of others, many of whom were identity theft victims. Eric Wilhoit admitted that he instructed his co-conspirators on how to make the claims. The group then used VPNs and false or anonymized email addresses in an attempt to hide the fraud.
Additionally, each member of the conspiracy recruited others to use their physical addresses to receive the prepaid debit cards that contained the unemployment benefits. Eric Wilhoit and his co-conspirators made significant cash withdrawals from the prepaid debit cards, bought luxury goods, and at least one firearm with the benefits. Specifically, Eric Wilhoit purchased a diamond ring, while his sister Odyssey Wilhoit purchased a Chanel purse, Louboutin shoes, along with many other items. The loss associated with the unemployment fraud scheme impacting the Virginia Unemployment Commission was over $1.7 million.
While attempting to flee his arrest, Eric Wilhoit led law enforcement on a high-speed chase, resulting in him crashing his car with his minor children in the backseat.
Separately, Odyssey Wilhoit ran her own mail theft and bank fraud scheme in which she conspired with Eric Wilhoit, Jeremiah Wilhoit, Dejhaun Wilhoit, and others, including Jaleai Morrison, 23, of Temple, Georgia. According to court documents, Morrison obtained a master U.S. Postal key and would steal checks from a U.S. Postal collection box, one of which was located in Arlington, and provide the checks or personal information from the checks to Odyssey Wilhoit. Odyssey Wilhoit used the information to create counterfeit checks, which she would then deposit into bank accounts and later withdraw or transfer to cash applications once the funds cleared. After her conspiracy with Morrison ended, Odyssey Wilhoit obtained the U.S. Postal key and continued to steal mail from the U.S. Postal collection boxes. Her bank fraud scheme continued through at least July 2022. During the investigation, law enforcement discovered hundreds of stolen checks, which when altered totaled over $850,000.
On January 25, 2023, Jaleia Morrison was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment, and three years of supervised release for her role in the mail theft and bank fraud scheme. On April 26, 2023, Odyssey Wilhoit was sentenced to 75 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release. On May 3, 2023, both Dejhaun and Jeremiah Wilhoit were sentenced to 66 months of imprisonment and to three years and five years of supervised release respectively. Odyssey Wilhoit, Dejhaun Wilhoit, and Jeremiah Wilhoit were also ordered to pay restitution and consented to the forfeiture of certain assets.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; Kevin Davis, Fairfax County Chief of Police; Damon E. Wood, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Troy W. Springer, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the National Capital Regional Office, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police provided significant assistance in this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Shartar and Christopher Hood prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 1:22-cr-191 and 1:22-cr-177.