A Gainesville man recently entered a guilty plea for allegedly applying for unemployment insurance in more than 15 states in his name and the names of others during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a press release from U.S. Attorney Ryan Buchanan with the Northern District of Georgia, Ronald House, 66, pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge.
“House ran a multi-state scam stealing benefits allotted for those in need,” Buchanan said. “COVID-19 pandemic funds provided vital aid for citizens who qualified for them. Congress did not intend for individuals to illegally profit from the CARES Act program. House compounded his fraudulent conduct by stealing the identities of others to perpetrate his scheme.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic when so many Americans desperately needed unemployment assistance, Ronald House submitted numerous fraudulent unemployment insurance claims to multiple state workforce agencies in his own name, as well as in the names of his relatives, including a deceased family member. As a result, House collected over $170,000 in fraudulent UI payments; benefits which were intended for individuals adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” said Mathew Broadhurst, Special-Agent- in-Charge, Southeast Region, US. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners to safeguard unemployment benefits programs for those who need them.”
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act created a new temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that provided up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits and funding to states for the administration of the program. Those receiving these benefits may have also been eligible for a $600 weekly benefit in federal funds under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
To take advantage of the additional weekly federal benefit, House applied online for fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits in California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington State. He also applied using the personal information of other people in several other states, including Georgia and Michigan.
In total, he fraudulently obtained more than $150,000 in benefits.
Sentencing for House is scheduled for March 8, 2024, at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Steve Jones.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Klapman is prosecuting the case.