PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States lawyer Jennifer Arbittier Williams has announced that Brandon Segers, 33, and Dionne Segers, 32, both of Philadelphia, PA, and their inmate accomplice Michael Matthews, 42, from Richmond, VA, and currently incarcerated at FCI Cumberland in Maryland, have been accused of fraudulently applying for and receiving emergency unemployment benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the defendants allegedly submitted bogus claims that inmates had lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and submitted false weekly certifications that inmates were available for full-time work despite being incarcerated.
The accused are charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and four counts of theft of government program funds. All the defendants were either arrested and taken into police custody this morning, or already in custody.
In addition to the unemployment fraud, defendant Dionne Segers is accused of submitting a fraudulent claim and obtaining COVID-19 emergency funds under the Economic Disaster Loan (EIDL) program of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The EIDL program was set up to provide low-interest loans to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As alleged in the indictment, Dionne Segers submitted an application to the SBA for a shell business and received an immediate emergency grant of $ 10,000. Segers did not spend the money on business expenses, but rather on luxury goods and other personal items.
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was promulgated. The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA), which provides unemployment benefits to people not eligible for regular unemployment benefit or extended unemployment benefits, including individuals, families and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility for weekly PUA benefits is based on a claimant’s unemployment for pandemic-related reasons, and this requires the claimant to have been able to work every day and, had he been offered a job, could have been employed. ‘accept. Once an applicant is approved to receive benefits, the applicant is required to submit weekly certifications indicating that he or she: was ready, willing and able to work each day; was looking for a full-time job; has not refused any job offer or recommendation; and had declared any employment during the week and the gross salary or other payments received.
As part of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment, claims have been made on behalf of inmates who have not lost their jobs due to COVID. Matthews reportedly passed the inmate information necessary for filing PUA applications to Brandon Segers, a former federal inmate who had previously been incarcerated with Matthews, by phone and email. Brandon and Dionne Segers would then file the fraudulent claims on behalf of Matthews and other inmates provided by Matthews. Brandon and Dionne Segers would also file weekly attestations that inmates were available for full-time work when they were not. Brandon and Dionne Segers allegedly compensated Matthews for providing the inmate information by depositing money into his Federal Prison Commissioner account.
According to the indictment, Brandon Segers also filed fraudulent claims and weekly certifications in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts under his name for a period in which he was incarcerated. In addition, Dionne Segers allegedly filed a fraudulent application and weekly certification in Pennsylvania under her name for a period during which she was employed and received employment income. During this period, Dionne Segers received regular salary income as well as unemployment benefits.
Aside from the small amount of money the Segers used to compensate Matthews, they spent the proceeds in part on large cash withdrawals, luxuries and vacations. As a result of the conspiracy, the defendants caused a loss of at least $ 180,000.
“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Small Business Loan Funds are intended to help American workers and small business owners continue to pay their bills and make ends meet, even when incomes have fallen dramatically. fell due to the pandemic, ”Acting US Attorney Williams said. “The thieves who try to take these funds take advantage of the misfortune of others – scam them while scamming all the taxpayers who fund the program. As alleged, the Segers and Matthews fraudulently obtained thousands of dollars in funds that could have helped struggling businesses and individuals. “
“An important part of the Office of Inspector General’s mission is to investigate allegations of fraud related to unemployment insurance programs. We will continue to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of allegations, ”said Syreeta Scott, Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia area. , Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Labor.
“Pandemic relief funds are limited and intended to prevent legitimate struggling businesses from going bankrupt and are not intended to be used to pay for personal indulgences,” said Yury Kruty, Acting Special Agent in charge of the ‘IRS-Criminal Investigation. “In addition, the goal of the Unemployment Pandemic Assistance Program was to provide benefits to those who have effectively lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The IRS-CI will continue to aggressively investigate those who conspired to defraud this program intended to help troubled individuals and businesses. ”
This matter was investigated by the United States Department of Labor – Office of the Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations. The case is being continued by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Lanni.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https: //www.justice. gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.