Federal stimulus checks may be a thing of the past, but people are still pleading guilty to crimes involving the distribution of the checks.
Late last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that a woman from Modesto pleaded guilty to charges that she submitted more than 100 stimulus check claims. The prosecutors added that the woman had obtained personal identifiable information (PII) for several individuals from a son who is incarcerated at San Quentin Prison.
According to the prosecutors, the woman pleaded guilty in federal court to “engaging in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to aggravated identity theft.” The plea followed a May 2021 federal indictment for “engaging in a wire fraud conspiracy to file scores of fraudulent applications for Economic Impact Payment (EIP) payments, commonly known as stimulus checks.”
The checks in question arrived under the CARES Act, which was the original stimulus program passed early in the pandemic under the Trump administration.
The woman admitted in her guilty plea that her son obtained the personal information of fellow prisoners and passed it on to her. She then made claims via the online portal, attaching them to her own banking information. According to prosecutors, the woman obtained $145,200 through the scam in total.
She also admitted that she had received a spreadsheet with the names and personal information of over 9,000 individuals and that her son suggested that she first file claims for the younger people among them. That was because “these younger, college-aged individuals probably lacked income sufficient to trigger the filing of a 2018 or 2019 tax return and were accordingly likely non-filers eligible for EIP payments,” the Justice Department statement said. Those who made less than $99,000 on their 2019 tax returns were not required to file a tax return in 2020 to receive their stimulus check.
Sentencing in the case is scheduled for June 24. The woman faces up to twenty years in prison, the press release said.
Another Case in Delaware
Just a week earlier, another woman pleaded guilty in a similar case. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Delaware, a woman in that state pleaded guilty to charges that she fraudulently obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and illegally spent the proceeds for it.
Prosecutors claimed that the woman “submitted seventeen (17) fraudulent loan applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and its authorized lenders in order to obtain loans” through the CARES Act. The woman also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.