Texan pleads guilty in CARES Act unemployment fraud scheme
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A 28-year-old Corpus Christi man has admitted to devising a scheme to fraudulently misappropriate $278,433 in unemployment benefits meant for those suffering financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
William Cleveland Peck admitted to misappropriating personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth, related to various individuals. Peck then used that information to file multiple false and fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and general unemployment benefits between May and July 2020.
As part of his guilty plea, Peck admitted to committing mail fraud by using a misappropriated identity to file a false and fraudulent claim with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), causing them to mail a debit card to a P.O. Box Peck utilized. Peck then used the fraudulently-obtained debit card to withdraw cash and make purchases. The individual under whose identity Peck filed the false claim was not a resident of Texas, not eligible for benefits through TWC and did not authorize Peck to file such a claim.
PUA benefits were made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act - a federal law enacted March 29 which provides emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. District Judge David S. Morales accepted the plea today and set sentencing for Jan. 25, 2021. At that time, Peck faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The Department of Labor - Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and TWC conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Swartz and Asha Natarajan are prosecuting the case.