RICHMOND, Va. June 11, 2021 – Virginia Smith (aged 37, of Glen Allen, Virginia) on Friday pleaded guilty to charges of conducting mail fraud and conspiring with inmates at Baskerville Correctional Center to obtain COVID-19-related unemployment benefits for 22 inmates.
As per the court documents, Smith conspired with an inmate at the correctional centre to collect personal profiles of inmates to apply for Virginia unemployment benefits, during a period of June 2020-January 2021. She succeeded in getting funds totalling at least $223,984.72 in fraudulent benefits for at least 22 inmates at Baskerville Correctional Center.
As part of the scheme, Smith shared the proceeds of the crime with the inmates whose personal details she used to file fake claims and kept partial funds for herself. The applications she filed for the inmates‘ falsified address, last employer details and the applicants’ willingness/availability to work when employment opportunity becomes available.
Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh and Special Agent-in-Charge, Washington Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Derek Pickle expressed their commitment to support the prosecution of individuals taking advantage of the unemployment insurance programs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kashan Pathan is prosecuting the case. The court has scheduled the sentencing for September 9. Smith is looking at a penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment.
The investigation of the case was conducted under “Operation Checkmate,” the Virginia Department of Corrections Inmate Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force. This task force is led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG), Department of Homeland Security– Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG), and the Virginia Department of Corrections. This investigation of the case was significantly supported by the Virginia Employment Commission.