ALBANY, NEW YORK – Taliek Lanier, age 23, of Albany, was sentenced today to 12 months in prison for engaging in a fraudulent scheme to obtain more than $110,000 in unemployment insurance benefits under the names of three other people, including benefits funded by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman; New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang; Matthew Scarpino, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the Boston Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); and Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge, Northeast Region, United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (USDOL-OIG).
As part of his previously entered guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Lanier admitted that he provided Jamie Johnson with the personal identifying information of three other people, which Johnson used to file false claims online with the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL). Lanier further admitted that as a result of the fraudulent applications submitted by Johnson, the NYSDOL paid out $113,936 in unemployment insurance benefits.
Johnson previously pled guilty to fraudulently obtaining $701,441 in unemployment insurance benefits as part of the scheme.
Senior United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn also imposed a 3-year term of supervised release, to begin after Lanier is released from prison, and ordered him to pay $113,936 in restitution to the State of New York.
This case was investigated by the New York State Inspector General’s Office, HSI, USPIS, and USDOL-OIG, with assistance from the NYSDOL Office of Special Investigations, the Capital Region Crime Analysis Center, and the Albany County Department of Social Services. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua R. Rosenthal and Joseph S. Hartunian prosecuted the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.