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Conspirators Plead Guilty To MASSIVE $1.4M Unemployment Scheme

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Four co-conspirators in a massive welfare fraud scheme pleaded guilty Monday to stealing $1.4 million in unemployment benefits across multiple states.

The Department of Labor (DOL) administers unemployment insurance with state agencies to help those who lose their jobs.  Eric Gonzalez, Tawana McClain, Ferny Puente and Wilfredo Torres scammed the system by submitting fraudulent application in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. They pleaded guilty after a federal investigation uncovered the scheme.

“The Office of Inspector General is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue and hold accountable those who defraud the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance program,” DOL Office of Inspector General Agent John Dolce said in a statement.

Gonzalez, McClain, Puente and Torres executed their fraud scheme between 2012 and 2015. They recruited co-constrictors to submit falsified application and took part of the benefits for helping. Torres for instance allowed his business address to be used in the scheme. When the unemployment benefits debit cards arrived he would either used them or distributed them to co-conspirators.

They have already agreed to payback a portion of what they stole. McClain will payback $205,613 for personally using at least 12 cards, Puente will payback $268,911 for using 14 cards, Torres and Gonzalez will payback $173,185 each for using 11 cards between them. They also all face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Investigators uncovered the scheme as part of an ongoing campaign to stop financial fraud. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established in 2009 to coordinate federal and state agency to better investigate fraud.

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