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Press Release

Petal Woman Pleads Guilty to CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Miss. – Delma Ruth High, 64, of Petal, pleaded guilty to theft of government funds involving unemployment insurance benefits fraud, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. Lamarca and U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Shawn Wolfe.

In May 2020, a local bank alerted the U.S. Secret Service Jackson Resident Office that unemployment insurance benefits from the State of Washington and Arizona had been deposited into High’s account.  This information was provided in relation to High’s actions in the days leading up to her account being closed for fraudulent activity. An investigation into these benefits revealed that they were deposited into High’s account under other individuals’ names.  The unemployment insurance benefits were federally subsidized through the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

High pled guilty today to theft of government funds.  She is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, and faces up to 10 years in prison. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Keith Starrett will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meghan M. McCalla and William Dieters prosecuted the case.

This case is being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force (NUIFTF). In response to the unprecedented scope of Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud, the Department of Justice established the NUIFTF. The NUIFTF is a prosecutor-led multi-agency task force with representatives from FBI, DOL-OIG, IRS-CI, HSI, DHS-OIG, USPIS, USSS, SSA-OIG, FDIC-OIG, and other agencies. Members of the NUIFTF are working with state workforce agencies, financial institutions, and other law enforcement partners across the country to fight UI fraud, and consumers should be vigilant in light of these threats and take the appropriate steps to safeguard themselves.

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act is the authorization that expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by COVID-19, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866‑720‑5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at:

Updated June 7, 2021