Repeat Identity Thief Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Sophisticated Scheme to Steal Unemployment Benefits
Former Accountant Set up Phony Companies and Employees to Steal more than $200,000
A 54-year-old Seattle man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 48 months in prison for theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. Using a sophisticated scheme based on his training as an accountant, GEORGE VERKLER created fake businesses and stolen identities to collect unemployment benefits from both the Washington and Oregon Employment Security departments. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour imposed three years supervised release with the condition that VERKLER get mental health treatment.
According to records filed in the case, between February 2008 and October 2014, VERKLER created three fake Washington companies: #1 Accountant Incorporated, Smart Buys at Stupid Prices and Associated Grocers. VERKLER used the names and Social Security numbers of real people when creating the master business applications for these companies. Over the years in question VERKLER claimed to be employed by the companies and then laid off so that he could collect $97,396 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
From July 2010 until October 2014, VERKLER created a fictitious Oregon business called Fair Accounting, and filed quarterly tax reports using the stolen names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of four real people. Then claiming the purported employees had been laid off, VERKLER filed benefit claims under each victim’s name and stole $139,932 in unemployment benefits from the Oregon Employment Security Department.
The case came to the attention of law enforcement when Washington State tried to collect taxes from one of the fictitious companies. The total loss to the employment security programs in both states is $237,328.
This is a second federal conviction for VERKLER, who in 1999 was convicted of stealing the identities of 91 different people to fraudulently obtain tax return refunds. In 2001 he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for that crime.
In their filings with the court, prosecutors noted that this crime occurred in a context where the financial costs of identity theft top $24.7 billion. In 2012 an estimated 16.6 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft.
The case was investigated by the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General (DOL-OIG). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Francis Franze-Nakamura.