Texas Woman Indicted in Covid 19 Unemployment Assistance Fraud

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BOSTON – A Texas woman was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday in connection with her alleged involvement in a scheme to fraudulently claim COVID-19-related unemployment assistance.

Donna Wasson, 36, of San Antonio, Texas, was indicted on three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Wasson was charged in a criminal complaint on April 16, 2021.

According to charging documents, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) created a temporary federal unemployment insurance program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA, administered by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, provides unemployment insurance benefits for individuals who are not eligible for other types of unemployment benefits (e.g., the self-employed, independent contractors, or gig economy workers).

It is alleged that Wasson applied for Massachusetts unemployment benefits despite residing in Texas and receiving unemployment benefits via the Texas Workplace Commission. In addition, Wasson allegedly carried out instructions concerning other fraudulent unemployment claims from a former Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) employee, and accessed unemployment claims under multiple stolen identities to fraudulently obtain benefits to which she was not entitled.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors

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