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Press Release

Baton Rouge Woman Sentenced to 75 Months in Federal Prison for Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft in Connection with Fraudulent Scheme to Obtain Unemployment Benefits

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Louisiana

United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr.  announced that U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Shawnda Augustus, age 41, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to 75 months in federal prison following her convictions for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with fraudulent scheme to obtain unemployment benefits.  The Court further sentenced Augustus to serve three years of supervised release following her term of imprisonment and ordered her to pay restitution in the amount of $361,074 to state unemployment agencies in Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and New Mexico.

According to admissions made as a part of her guilty plea, following the floods of 2016, Augustus engaged in a scheme to defraud and to obtain money from FEMA by submitting fraudulent applications for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) benefits to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, both in her own name, and in the names of other victims, without their knowledge or consent.  As a result of the scheme, Augustus submitted or caused to be submitted approximately forty (40) fraudulent DUA claims. 

Beginning in March 2020 and continuing through at least January 2021, Augustus engaged in multi-state fraud scheme to obtain pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) benefits to which she was not entitled. Augustus submitted fraudulent applications for PUA benefits in Louisiana, and in multiple other states, including Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee, Hawaii, and Nebraska, among others.  Augustus also obtained the personal identifying information of victims, including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers.  Using these stolen identities, Augustus submitted approximately twenty-nine (29) false and fraudulent applications for PUA benefits to state unemployment agencies in the names of those victims both in Louisiana and in multiple other states. 

According to the plea agreement, Augustus received approximately $123,908 in false claims for PUA benefits.   Augustus withdrew the funds as cash, or used the funds to pay for hotels, airline tickets, and purchases at restaurants and retail stores.  

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Labor and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kristen L. Craig. 

Updated December 19, 2022

Financial Fraud
Identity Theft