Malden Man Indicted for CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Fraud and Identity Fraud
BOSTON – A Malden man was charged today with identity fraud and with submitting fraudulent applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The federal PUA program provides unemployment-related benefits to individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19.
Wagner Sozi, 32, was indicted on two counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of making a false claim to the United States. Sozi was initially charged by criminal complaint and arrested on June 25, 2020. He was released on conditions following a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge David H. Hennessy on June 30, 2020.
Charging documents allege that Sozi engaged in a scheme to use stolen identity information to open accounts, make purchases, rent cars and apply for PUA benefits. Sozi allegedly obtained this stolen identity information from various sources, including from a Cambridge realty company that collected the personal identifying information of people who sought to rent local apartments. Sozi lived with an individual who had worked for this realty company, and agents found various files belonging to the company in Sozi’s apartment. Numerous identity theft victims tied to Sozi had been clients of this realty company, including at least one person in whose name a fraudulent PUA claim was filed.
Court documents reflect that Sozi, along with a female accomplice, opened credit accounts at an office supply retailer under various fake identities and then used these accounts to purchase Visa gift cards, resulting in a loss to the retail chain of more than $100,000. Sozi allegedly used another stolen identity to purchase a Rolex for more than $15,000. It is further alleged that he also possessed a Maine driver’s license, bearing his photograph and the name of an identity theft victim, which was used to open a bank account and to make large purchases at an Apple Store.
Following his arrest on June 25, 2020, agents seized documents from Sozi’s apartment, including a PUA debit card in another individual’s name. Further investigation revealed that the PUA claim associated with the seized debit card listed Sozi’s address as the mailing address and that another fraudulent PUA claim had been submitted under Sozi’s own name but with another person’s Social Security number.
The charges of wire fraud provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison, up to one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The false claim charge provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Frederick J. Regan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office; and Michael Mikulka, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigation made the announcement today. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Unemployment Assistance, Program Integrity Unit, the Massachusetts State Police and the Malden, Medford and Braintree Police Departments provided valuable assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Abely, Deputy Chief of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit, is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.