Providence Man Admits to Fraudulently Seeking Federally Funded COVID Unemployment Benefits | USAO-RI

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –  A Providence man today admitted in federal court that he submitted fraudulent online applications seeking pandemic related unemployment benefits from eight states while collecting benefits from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

Vallah Brown 30, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, admitting that he filed fraudulent online applications seeking Families First Coronavirus  Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funded unemployment benefits from Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, California, Texas, New York, and Louisiana. Brown claimed on each state’s benefit application that he was a resident of that state, was unemployed, and was entitled to benefits in that state.

An investigation determined that Brown fraudulently collected $48,902 dollars in FFCRA and CARES Act funding from those eight states.

Brown is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., on April 22, 2022.

Wire fraud is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 20 years in federal prison and three years federal supervised release.

These matters and other cases of alleged criminal activity related to fraudulent applications for unemployment insurance benefits due to the pandemic are being investigated jointly by the FBI and Rhode Island State Police, and U.S. Department of Labor, with the assistance of other federal agencies. Cases are jointly reviewed, charged and prosecuted by a team including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Denise M. Barton, Stacey P. Veroni, G. Michael Seaman, and Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General John M. Moreira, chief of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit.

Rhode Islanders who believe their personal identification has been stolen and used to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits are urged to contact the Rhode Island State Police at financialcrimes@risp.gov or the FBI Providence office at (401) 272-8310.

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.

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