Since the public health emergency was declared, Louisiana has experienced massive unemployment with hundreds of businesses forced into closure and their employees out of work. Unfortunately, fraudsters seized upon the situation; and the Unemployment Trust Fund was an easy target.
Many press reports have highlighted the more than $400 million in Louisiana unemployment benefits being dispersed to individuals who did not qualify to receive them, the $6.2 million in benefits that went to prisoners in our State, and the $1.08 million in benefits paid to dead people.
In October, Attorney General Jeff Landry announced arrests his office made related to COVID-19 unemployment fraud. Today, he is announcing several more arrests of people accused of stealing over $1 million of government benefits.
“With the unemployment system being as overwhelmed and insecure as it has been, it is no surprise that bad actors are coming out of the woodworks to take advantage of it,” said Attorney General Landry. “So my office will continue investigating false claims and doing what we legally can to bring criminals to justice.”
Louisiana Bureau of Investigation (LBI) agents learned multiple groups of individuals operating across several parishes in Louisiana had conspired to defraud both the Louisiana and California COVID-19 unemployment insurance programs. It is alleged that members of these groups filed multiple fraudulent online claims with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). In total: LBI asserts that over 100 false claims were filed with California EDD, resulting in over $1 million in stolen unemployment funds; and that several of the accused simultaneously submitted fraudulent claims to the LWC, resulting in more than $60,000 being stolen.
The arrests were made with assistance from the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Addis Police Department, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and LWC.
“Crime has no geographical boundaries and because of our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, neither do we,” said Sheriff Brett Stassi. “These partnerships are a crucial part in curbing crime and corruption in our communities.”
There are currently two other outstanding warrants related to this matter for Adrienne Johnson (37 of Prairieville) and Joseph Mitchell (24 of Baton Rouge). Anyone with information on their whereabouts is encouraged to contact LBI at 800-256-4506 or the local law enforcement agency.
Additionally, LBI received requests for assistance regarding other allegations that eventually resulted in two more arrests.
The arrests were made with assistance from the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, DOL, and LWC.
“I want to thank all of our law enforcement and agency partners who helped in our efforts,” concluded Attorney General Landry. “I encourage anyone who knows of fraudulent activity related to COVID-19 unemployment benefits to report it.”
Please note the investigations are ongoing and all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Those who know someone fraudulently receiving funds from the Unemployment Trust Fund or who believe they have been victimized may report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation at www.agjefflandry.com/unemployment/fraud/complaint.