Tennessee Couple Indicted For $86,511 Veterans’ Unemployment Compensation Benefit Fraud
HARRISBURG - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that a Tennessee couple have been indicted for fraudulently obtaining $86,511 in veterans’ unemployment compensation benefits.
According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Earl Lafayete Hall, III, age 35, and his wife, Renita Blunt, age 31, both of Arlington, Tennessee, are charged in a Superseding Indictment with mail fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
According to the Superseding Indictment, with Blunt’s assistance, Hall allegedly applied for veteran’s unemployment compensation benefits under the false name and identity of 8 individuals. The bogus applications were submitted via the internet to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry in Harrisburg and the Hawaii Department of Labor & Industrial Relations in Honolulu between January 2013 and July 2014.
Hall and Blunt allegedly received the benefits under the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members Program, commonly known as “The UCX Program,” a federally-funded U.S. Department of Labor program administered by the individual states. Under this federal-state partnership, the states pay out unemployment insurance benefits to the veterans based on the claimed residence of the veteran, and are subsequently reimbursed by branches of the military. Benefits are based upon the military wages and pay grade of the serviceman at the time of his or her separation from military service. There is no payroll deduction for UCX unemployment insurance protection.
The Indictment alleges that Hall and Blunt caused 12 Pennsylvania benefit checks to be mailed to two addresses in western Pennsylvania (Sarver and New Kensington, Pa) and to another address in Joliet, Illinois. The Indictment also alleges that $43,224 of the fraudulently obtained benefits was deposited into a bank account Hall controlled in Illinois, and that $4,900 in cash was subsequently removed from the account via multiple ATM transactions. The cash withdrawals form the basis of the money laundering counts in the Indictment.
Hall was previously indicted by a Middle District of PA grand jury on March 2, 2016 on charges involving the same scheme. Following his arrest in Tennessee on March 7, 2016, and following an appearance in Harrisburg before US Magistrate Court Judge Martin C. Carlson on March 15, 2016, Hall was released to home detention. Today’s Superseding Indictment adds Blunt as a codefendant and eight new charges (six counts of Aggravated Identity Theft and one count of Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud). No hearing date has yet been set for either Hall or Blunt on the charges.
The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering & Fraud Investigations, U.S. Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service with assistance from Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Internal Audits Division, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits and Policy, and the Pennsylvania Department of the Treasury, Office of Unemployment Compensation Disbursements. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel.
Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty for each count under federal law is 20 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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