Ridgeland Woman Charged with Unemployment Fraud
Jackson, Miss. – Judith Ann Middleton, 70, of Ridgeland, Mississippi, was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with multiple violations of federal law involving unemployment insurance benefits fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Shawn Wolfe.
In May 2020, it was discovered that unemployment insurance benefits from the State of Washington had been deposited into Middleton’s account. Investigation into these benefits revealed that they were deposited under other individuals’ names. The unemployment insurance benefits were federally subsidized through the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency, and Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) into law in response to the pandemic to aid those financially affected by the outbreak. This aid included $600 of federal unemployment compensation benefits in addition to those provided by the states.
“Those who blatantly steal taxpayer money by defrauding government programs during a national emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic will soon find themselves standing in a federal court to answer for their crimes. This type of fraud particularly hurts the unemployed, but also our government, our economy, and all Americans. We will continue working with our federal, state and local partners to root out this fraud and protect the public from further financial harm,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst.
“The United States Secret Service is investigating the release of CARES Act relief payments and associated fraudulent schemes that seek to exploit these funds. We have observed a proliferation and diversification of criminal schemes, particularly an increase in targeting various economic relief programs, such as unemployment benefits, the Payment Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) payments. The Secret Service is collaborating closely with other federal, state, and local agencies, and our financial institution partners to detect, investigate, and bring justice to criminals committing financial fraud related to COVID-19,” said Shawn Wolfe, Resident Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Jackson Resident Office.
Middleton appeared for arraignment today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson. The case has been set for trial before Senior U.S. District Judge David C. Bramlette III on December 7, 2020. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan M. McCalla is prosecuting the case.
The public is reminded that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.