Four from Northeast Ohio Indicted for Defrauding State Unemployment Agencies out of $1.1 Million
A 38-count federal indictment was filed charging four people from Northeast Ohio with conspiring to defraud states out of more than $1.1 million in unemployment insurance benefits, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Indicted are: Juan Sanders, 34, of Cleveland Heights; Trina Grant, 36, of Cleveland; Ashley Robinson, 30, of Warrensville Heights, and Robert Barrett, 40, of Cleveland. The charges include conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sanders faces an additional count of aggravated identity theft.
“These defendants took advantage of a program designed to help people out of work and instead used it to enrich themselves,” Dettelbach said. “We will prosecute waste, fraud and abuse of government programs.”
The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to defraud state unemployment offices in Ohio, California, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Illinois from about September 2011 to January 2014. Under this scheme, Sanders fraudulently obtained personal identifying information from unsuspecting individuals to submit fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits.
Sanders also created state unemployment insurance accounts for multiple fictitious employers in Ohio, California, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Illinois. Sanders then filed claims from “employees” who had been purportedly laid off by the fictitious companies. Sanders caused benefit debit cards for the “employees” of these fictitious companies to be mailed to various addresses in Ohio, according to the indictment.
Once the benefits were loaded or reloaded onto the debit cards, Sanders, Grant, Robinson and Barrett used the debit cards at various ATMs in Ohio and withdrew the fraudulently obtained money, according to the indictment.
The indictment charges that as a result of this scheme, approximately $1,174,767 in fraudulent unemployment benefits were paid from state agencies in North Carolina ($572,170), Ohio ($261,509), Illinois ($144,240), California ($129,600) and Massachusetts ($67,248).
Sanders used $16,900 in fraudulently obtained cash to pay off a car loan on his 2007 Jaguar XJ automobile as well as several months’ rent on a Cleveland Heights apartment, according to the indictment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert W. Kern, M. Kendra Klump, and James Morford following an investigation by the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal records, if any, the defendants’ role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.