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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Four People Sentenced To Prison For $360,000 Identity Theft Scheme

A Cleveland Heights woman was sentenced to nearly 15 years in prison for his role in a widespread identity-theft scheme, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

Darnell Nash, 29, was sentenced today to 175 months in prison and ordered to pay $361,341 in restitution. She is the last of four people to be sentenced in the identity theft scheme.

"This crime ring stole people's identities and used them to illegally get hundreds of thousands of dollars," Dettelbach said.

“This sentence sends a clear message that those seeking to commit unemployment insurance fraud will be held accountable. Combating  unemployment insurance fraud remains a high priority for the Office of Inspector General.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate those who obtain benefits to which they are not entitled,” said James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

Nash, Kennard Berts, 21, of Cleveland Heights, Dwayne Buchannan, Jr., 22, of Cleveland, and Justin Davis, 26, of Cleveland Heights, indictmented in October on charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering.

The defendants each entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  Nash and Berts also entered guilty pleas to money laundering.  Approximately $100,000 seized during the investigation was also ordered forfeited to the United States.

U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent sentenced Davis to 74 months in prison, Berts to 61 months in prison and Buchannan to 54 months in prison earlier this year.

The defendants were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $361,341 to the six state unemployment offices affected. 

The defendants executed a “fictitious employer” scheme from about March 2012 to January 2013. They submitted false paperwork to various States’ unemployment-insurance offices where the defendants registered employers that did not actually exist and reported non-existent earnings for fictitious employees. The defendants then submitted false claims for unemployment-insurance benefits of the purported employees, according to court documents.

The defendants used actual individuals’ personal identifying information that the defendants had obtained fraudulently through various misrepresentations including distribution of flyers in urban areas purporting to offer assistance vouchers for food, housing, furniture and clothing.  When the individuals called a telephone number listed on the flyers, they were asked to provide personal identifying information, which the defendants later used to file fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits totaling $361,341, according to court documents.

The case was 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, the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspector, and the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General. Cleveland Heights Police Department also assisted the investigation.

Updated March 12, 2015