Chester County Inmates Get More Prison in COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud – The Mercury
Chester County Inmates Get More Prison in COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud – The Mercury

Chester County Inmates Get More Prison in COVID-19 Unemployment Fraud – The Mercury

PHILADELPHIA – A Chester County man who applied for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic while actually incarcerated on drug charges has, according to federal authorities, been sentenced to additional jail time on charges of fraud.

U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Kenneth L. Huggins Jr., 25, of Coatesville, was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months in federal prison and 3 years awaited release by U.S. District Judge Gerald J. Pappert for filing a fraudulent application. for pandemic unemployment benefits while in jail for a state drug trafficking conviction, making him unable to receive these benefits.

On March 27, 2020, CARES ACT was adopted and created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) program to provide unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were not eligible for other unemployment benefits.

In December 2021, Huggins, who has a county criminal record for relatively minor drug and theft crimes, pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud stemming from this scheme for filing false PUA claims.

Beginning in July 2020, Huggins abused the relief program by arranging for his mother, Patrice Hawthorne, who is also charged in the scheme, and his cousin, his co-defendant Dashona Lawrence, to file a fraudulent PUA claim on his behalf.

At the time, Huggins was a prisoner in Chester County Prison and had been incarcerated there since before the pandemic began. Huggins also tried to persuade his co-defendants to file fraudulent PUA applications for two of his fellow prisoners, who were also not eligible for benefits because they were not unemployed as a result of the pandemic, and planned to keep the vast majority of all funds disbursed. . to the prisoners for themselves.

In all, Huggins fraudulently obtained nearly $ 13,000 in PUA benefits.

“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds are intended to help working Americans continue to pay their bills and make ends meet, even when hours and wages have dropped dramatically due to the pandemic,” Williams said in the statement.

“Thieves who try to take these funds take advantage of the misfortune of others – ripping them off, while also ripping off all taxpayers who fund the program,” she said. “Huggins fraudulently raised thousands of dollars in funds that could have helped struggling individuals.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Rice.

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