a long time Michigan unemployed The worker helped two of her friends file more than 123 false claims and stole $1.6 million in benefits, officials said.
The criminal complaint filed Wednesday (May 18) alleges that between March 2020 and June 2021, Kiannia Mitchell, 32, of Romulus, and Angela Johnson, 47, of Detroit, (Angela Johnson) Implemented a program to file and/or receive more than 123 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. According to authorities, the couple stole about $1.6 million in federal funds that were used to pay PUA and UIA benefits.
Antonia Brown, who has been working in Michigan since 2002, was working as an unemployment insurance examiner at the time, officials said. She is assigned to Benefit Payment Control, where she reviews, approves and makes decisions on PUA and UIA claims.
Brown, a 47-year-old Detroit native, visited about 110 claims filed by Mitchell and Johnson, records show. According to the criminal complaint, she altered or authorized 101 of those payments.
Investigators found: “Brown did not have a valid reason to access or modify, let alone approve, the subject claims, suggesting that Brown used her position as an employee to inappropriately access and wrongfully release claims related to Mitchell and Johnson’s IP addresses. Payment.”
Michigan’s UIA uses software to flag certain claims for review when it identifies possible fraud, wage discrepancies, or multiple claims. Officials said 101 claims made by Mitchell and Johnson were flagged, but Brown removed them to free up payments.
Court records show Brown was a friend of Mitchell and Johnson, and they often talked about fraudulent claims.
Johnson and Mitchell admitted they received money from a third party to help them file their claims, officials said. They also admitted to paying Brown for her help, according to authorities.
A review of CashApp records revealed that all three received large payments from multiple people, including payments made directly to Brown by Mitchell and Johnson, the criminal complaint said.
Agents investigating the case traced the IP addresses associated with the fraudulent claims back to two homes — one on Cherokee Avenue in Romulus and the other on Erin Street in Detroit. Both appear to be single-family homes, and there is no reason to file dozens of unemployment claims, they said.
When reviewing the claims, investigators found a common link between the two IP addresses. According to the criminal complaint, records show that a specific Michigan employee named Brown has accessed, altered and approved 101 of those claims.
They said officials examined Brown’s work activities and confirmed that she was not authorized to access or approve any of the claims in question. She also called off many fraudulent claims against claims, authorities said.
Court records show Brown’s Michigan call center phone system never reached any of the numbers listed in the 101 claims. Investigators said that meant she bypassed the necessary procedures to conspire with two other women.
The complaint alleges that Brown’s conduct resulted in the wrongful payment of more than $1,661,821.94 in PUA and UIA claims.
Records show that the IP address traced to Mitchell’s home in Romulus accessed more than 55 unique PUA and UIA claims. Authorities say more than $700,000 has been paid for those claims.
Brown accessed and adjusted most of the claims related to Mitchell’s IP address, resulting in payments of approximately $710,489.13, according to officials.
The criminal complaint alleges that Brown changed a claim made in Mitchell’s name in March 2020 nine times between September 2020 and February 2021.
In one case, Brown dropped a fraud investigation into a claim, court records show.
Investigators determined that Brown “inappropriately dropped an employer protest alleging that Mitchell was not entitled to PUA benefits.”
According to authorities, Mitchell’s account was not assigned to Brown and there were no official records of contact between the two women. But officials said T-Mobile records from Brown’s personal cell phone confirmed that she was in direct contact with Mitchell between July 2020 and August 18, 2021.
The IP address traced to Johnson’s home in Detroit accessed 51 unique PUA and UIA claims, records show. Authorities say more than $900,000 has been paid for those claims.
According to the criminal complaint, Johnson’s phone number was used to set up a MiLogin account for 12 claims.
Court records show that Brown accessed and/or approved at least 46 of the 51 claims, resulting in payments of approximately $951,332.81.
Federal officials executed a search warrant related to the case on September 29, 2021. All three women were interviewed.
According to the criminal complaint, Mitchell pleaded guilty to obtaining more than 55 PUA and UIA claims from her home for friends, family and colleagues. She said she spoke with Brown and obtained inside information about the claims.
Court records show that Mitchell told officials she had obtained each claimant’s username and password before accessing their accounts from her computer. In most cases, authorities said, she uploaded information on their behalf.
Mitchell said she discussed most of the claims with Brown and admitted to receiving payments from everyone she helped, according to officials. She also said she paid Brown through CashApp as a “thank you” for her help, the complaint said.
According to authorities, Johnson admitted to helping at least 15-20 people with PUA and UIA claims with Brown’s help. According to court records, Brown will remove fraud blocking on certain claims, Johnson said.
Johnson said she was paid by a claimant she assisted and admitted to paying Brown for her help through CashApp, officials said.
In Brown’s interview, she confirmed that Mitchell and Johnson were her friends and admitted to talking to them about some questionable claims, the criminal complaint said.
Brown said she received payments through CashApp from two women to help them with PUA and UIA claims, but said the payments were not related to her help with those claims, according to officials.
Brown admitted to taking payments directly from some of the claimants themselves, authorities said.
During the program’s time frame, Brown received a total of $50,500.09 in payments, including $5,075 from Johnson and $2,325 from Mitchell, CashApp records show.
During the same period, Mitchell received $108,860.91 in CashApp payments and Johnson received $54,537.50 in CashApp payments, court records show.
The criminal complaint alleges that Brown, Mitchell and Johnson may be charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and fraud in connection with a scheme to receive federal funds.
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