Worker sends $140K to friends and family through Missouri unemployment fraud, feds say

A state employee worked for the Missouri Division of Employment Security for almost 11 years before she began defrauding the department of its unemployment insurance funds, according to federal authorities.

The 63-year-old woman started working for the department in September 2009, authorities said, then began scamming the system in July 2020.

She has now pleaded guilty to theft of public money, according to a March 20 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.

In pleading guilty, the woman from Jefferson County “admitted abusing her position to send $140,500 in unearned unemployment benefits to friends, relatives and others,” authorities said.

The defense attorney representing the woman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on March 21.

In the plea agreement she signed on March 17, the former state employee admitted to approving ineligible people for unemployment insurance benefits.

She said she logged into the accounts of about 8 people — friends, family and associates — from July 2020 through December 2020.

During that time, authorities said she changed their status claims “to either make them eligible for unemployment benefits when they were not otherwise eligible or increase their benefits.”

“She also backdated some claims to increase benefits and changed the status of some who were receiving pandemic-related unemployment assistance to regular unemployment assistance to fraudulently increase the benefits they received,” authorities said.

In some cases, workers received benefits while employed, according to the plea agreement.

She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, authorities said. She’ll also be ordered to pay restitution for the full amount.

Her sentencing is scheduled for June 22.

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