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BATON ROUGE, LA – Flanked by United States Attorney Brandon Fremin and law enforcement officials, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry today announced arrests related to fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment claims and warned others illegally depriving the dwindling Unemployment Trust Fund.
“Since the public health emergency was declared, many of our neighbors fell ill and – unfortunately – thousands lost their lives. Others, who never contracted the disease, have also been impacted in numerous negative ways,” said AG Landry. “Hundreds of businesses were forced to shut down and their employees lost their jobs – leading to thousands of Louisianians filing for unemployment. With record unemployment and record amounts of government benefits being paid out, the fraudsters came crawling.”
Citing multiple checks being sent to the same address or same bank account, employers receiving requests to confirm employment for individuals who never worked at their establishments, and individuals filing claims in multiple states – AG Landry said a lack of safeguards was a catalyst for the fraud; but he added, “While others may have been asleep at the wheel, we are not. We are here, we will find you, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law possible."
Kayla Giles, 33 of Alexandria, and Teri Thibodeaux, 33 of Forest Hill, were arrested and charged with Felony Identity Theft, Felony Money Laundering, Government Benefits Fraud, and Criminal Conspiracy. The pair is accused of using approximately 25 stolen identities to file fraudulent COVID-19 related unemployment claims – valued at approximately $300,000 – in multiple states. In addition to the identity theft scheme, the two allegedly made fraudulent claims in their own names in multiple states – with Giles receiving approximately $13,000 and Thibodaux receiving $37,000.
Demarcus Evans, 30 of Bossier City, was arrested Monday and charged with Felony Identity Theft and Government Benefits Fraud. He is accused of using a female acquaintance's personal information to file fraudulent COVID-19 related unemployment claims. Evans allegedly defrauded the State of Louisiana of approximately $8,600.
Christina French, 41 of Florida, is a fugitive of Louisiana for an arrest warranted issued Thursday pertaining to Felony Money Laundering, Government Benefits Fraud, and Computer Fraud. She is accused of hacking the Louisiana Workforce Commission's online account of a Shreveport resident. French allegedly redirected the victim’s benefits to an out-of-state bank account that she controlled and that French transferred approximately $6,000 into that fraudulent account.
Amanda Garner, 33 of Covington, was arrested and charged with Government Benefits Fraud. She is accused of filing fraudulent COVID-19 related unemployment claim and weekly certifications. Garner allegedly obtained approximately $5,200 in unemployment benefits fraudulently as she did not qualify for unemployment because she remained employed during the COVID-19 shutdown and was not financially impacted.
All investigations are ongoing, and all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. AG Landry encourages anyone who knows of someone fraudulently receiving funds from the Unemployment Trust Fund or who believes he or she has been victimized to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s hotline at 866-720-5721 or online at www.AGJeffLandry.com.