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Press Release

Plaquemine Woman Sentenced to 44 Months for Pandemic Benefits Fraud Scheme

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 Lestreonia Renee Rodrigue, age 28, of Plaquemine, Louisiana, to 44 months in federal prison following her conviction for mail fraud.  The Court further sentenced Rodrigue to serve three years of supervised release following her term of imprisonment and ordered her to pay $663,259 in restitution.

Between July 2020 and September 2021, Rodrigue submitted fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits in California in her name and in the names of other individuals.  Rodrigue also submitted fraudulent claims for Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) benefits in the names of fictitious businesses and based on fictitious business profits and losses.

Through her unemployment insurance scheme, Rodrigue falsely claimed that she and others were working in California prior to the coronavirus pandemic and that they lost their employment due to the pandemic.  Rodrigue obtained names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of others and submitted fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits in their names, with and without their knowledge.  Rodrigue captured people’s identifying information through social media.  Upon submitting the claims and receiving the funds, she either gave a portion of the funds to others or kept all the funds for herself.  Through her scheme, Rodrigue fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance debit cards in the mail.

Rodrigue also devised a scheme to defraud lenders and the United States, through the Small Business Administration, by filing false and fraudulent applications for PPP funds.  In furtherance of the scheme, Rodrigue submitted, or had others submit, forged bank statements, false tax documents, and made misrepresentations in her PPP applications. 

Rodrigue also falsely reported bank cards stolen or lost so that she would receive new cards with additional pandemic benefit funds.  Throughout the course of the fraudulent schemes, Rodrigue caused over $500,000 in unemployment insurance debit cards to be mailed to her addresses, to which she and others were not entitled.  Additionally, Rodrigue caused $20,833 to be deposited into her bank account to which she was not entitled.

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor-OIG and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Edward H. Warner. 

Updated May 2, 2023

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