Man admits to stealing unemployment benefits while behind bars in New Jersey
An Illinois man admitted on Thursday to fraudulently collecting coronavirus-related unemployment benefits while incarcerated in a federal prison in New Jersey, officials said.
Devontae Stokes, 27, of Country Club Hills in Illinois, pleaded guilty in a videoconference hearing in federal court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
While serving time at the Federal Correctional Institution of Fort Dix between August 2020 and November 2020, Stokes and his associates obtained personal information from unsuspecting victims, including names, dates of birth and phone numbers. Social Security, according to court documents.
Stokes and his anonymous conspirators used that personal information to file bogus claims for unemployment insurance benefits, which netted more than $140,000, authorities said.
A cellphone Stokes had in jail contained personal information used for fraudulent claims, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General wrote in court documents.
The benefits were paid under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which created a temporary federal unemployment insurance program to help people who were not eligible for other forms of unemployment, officials said.
Stokes faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine when sentenced in August, the US attorney’s office said.
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Noah Cohen can be attached to [email protected].