Essex County Man Admits Conspiring to Fraudulently Obtain More Than $700,000
NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, man today admitted that he conspired to fraudulently obtain more than $700,000, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Jefferson Robert, 31, of Newark, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Julien X. Neals to an information charging him with conspiring to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law. The CARES Act created a new temporary federal program unemployment insurance program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) for individuals who are not eligible for other types of unemployment (e.g., self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers). The CARES Act also created a new temporary federal program that provides an additional $600 weekly benefit to those eligible for PUA and regular UIB. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) administers and manages the regular unemployment and PUA programs in the State of Washington.
Robert opened bank accounts with a fraudulent passport in another individual’s name. He and his conspirators then caused an application to be made to ESD for UIB in the name of Victim 1. In response, ESD caused UIB to be deposited into one of the fraudulent bank accounts. Robert and his conspirators: partook in business email scams, including causing a victim to transfer approximately $28,000 into one of the bank accounts; partook in romance scams, including causing a victim to make five deposits into one of the bank accounts totaling approximately $19,000; and fraudulently obtained money from the IRS by causing the IRS to transfer payments in four victims’ names into one of the bank accounts. Once the fraudulently obtained money was in the bank accounts, Roberts moved the money, including through the purchase of money orders. Robert and his conspirators caused more than $700,000 in losses.
The charge of conspiring to commit wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gross profits to Robert or twice the gross loss suffered by the victims, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 15, 2022.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Raimundo Marrero in Newark; special agents of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone in New York; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Cybercrime Unit in Newark.