Virginia Man Sentenced for Conspiring to Defraud CARES Act Unemployment Fund
ABINGDON, Va. – A Pound, Virginia man, who admitted to conspiring with others to defraud the government of nearly $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, was sentenced today to 102 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution.
Jeffrey R. Tackett, 30, and his co-conspirators, concocted a scheme to gather personal identification information and then submit unemployment claims to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) website for individuals who were known to be ineligible to receive pandemic unemployment benefits, including various inmates in Virginia Department of Corrections’ facilities.
“While Virginians were battling a global pandemic, this defendant and his co-conspirators were busy defrauding the federal and state unemployment system of nearly $500,000 in much-needed benefits,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “I am grateful for the collaborative work of the Department of Labor-Office of the Inspector General, IRS, and the Norton and Russell County authorities in bringing this conspiracy to justice.”
“Jeffrey Tackett engaged in a criminal scheme in which he and his co-conspirators filed fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment assistance for individuals he knew to be ineligible for benefits, including incarcerated individuals. The sentence today should serve as a deterrent for those contemplating committing similar crimes and signal the commitment of the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General to work with its partners, such as the Virginia Employment Commission, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Attorney’s Office, to investigate this type of fraud,” stated Special Agent-In-Charge Syreeta Scott, Philadelphia Region, U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General.
“Stealing pandemic unemployment benefits and taking assistance away from taxpayers who are truly in need is a serious crime. Today, another co-conspirator faced the consequences of his actions,” said Darrell J. Waldon, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-CI Washington D.C. Field Office. “We will continue to work with our investigative partners to seek out those who attempt to defraud the government.”
Conspiracy members lied on the VEC forms as part of the scheme to make filers appear eligible for benefits. Because pandemic unemployment benefits were paid weekly, each of those filings to the VEC website re-verified and re-certified the false statements on numerous occasions throughout the scheme.
Tackett conspired with others, including his brother, Gregory Tackett, and Gregory’s girlfriend, Leelyn Danielle Chykta, to collect personal identification information of more than 35 other co-conspirators, including 15 inmates in the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections, and then filed false claims that resulted in payments totaling more than $499,000.
Both Chytka and Gregory Tackett were sentenced last summer to 108 months in prison apiece for their roles in the conspiracy.
The Department of Labor-Office of the Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Norton Police Department, and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Murphy prosecuted the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.