LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A Las Vegas resident was arrested on Friday, July 31, 2020, on charges related to identity theft and possession of fraudulent unemployment benefits cards, announced U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and Special Agent in Charge Brian Spellacy of the U.S. Secret Service.
“Fraud against the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) is widespread in Nevada’s unemployment benefits system,” said U.S. Attorney Trutanich. “While the State begins to address vulnerabilities in its application and payment system, our office will continue working closely with our partners to prevent important federal resources from enriching fraudsters. This case is likely just the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’: we will track down and prosecute scammers who fraudulently obtain federal unemployment benefits.”
“The U.S. Secret Service and our law enforcement partners will continue to work with financial institutions and the state unemployment offices to pursue investigative leads associated with state unemployment identity theft,” said Special Agent in Charge Spellacy. “The U.S. Secret Service’s primary investigative priorities are to mitigate any attempt by criminals that target citizens for identity theft and cyber-enabled crimes as it relates to COVID-19.”
DETR is the agency that administers Nevada’s unemployment insurance program, which is designed to provide benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault on their own. DETR provides unemployment benefits to qualified applicants on debit cards.
Vincent Okoye, 38, of Las Vegas, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of possession of a counterfeit and unauthorized access device and one count of aggravated identity theft. Okoye’s initial court appearance in federal court has not yet been scheduled.
The complaint alleges that, on July 15, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Okoye’s residence in Las Vegas. They found:
- Over 100 credit and debit cards not issued in Okoye’s name, including at least 11 debit cards issued by DETR and at least 12 debit cards issued by Arizona’s Department of Economic Security (DES). DES administers the unemployment insurance program for Arizona.
Law enforcement found one of those DETR debit cards in Okoye’s wallet, which is pictured below:
- Over $100,000 in U.S. Currency and U.S. Money Orders.
- At least 24 pieces of mail from DETR, bearing various names and addresses.
- Over 100 pieces of mail, bearing names and addresses not belonging to Okoye.
- A forged Canadian passport.
- Postal mailbox master keys.
The minimum statutory penalty for aggravated identity theft is two years in prison and the maximum statutory penalty for all counts charged in the Complaint is 12 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The minimum and maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Fang is prosecuting the case.
Individuals who believe that someone is fraudulently using their identity, as well as companies who believe that someone is fraudulently using the identity of their employees, to apply for unemployment benefits should file a complaint through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov and to DETR’s Fraud Report at https://detr.nv.gov/Page/DETR_Unemployment_Insurance_Fraud_Reporting_Form.
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 Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.