BOSTON — A New Jersey man pleaded guilty today in connection with his involvement in a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19-related unemployment benefits.
Omar Thompson, 39, of Paterson, NJ, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs has scheduled sentencing for March 22, 2022. Thompson was charged on August 19, 2021, through a criminal complaint.
In March 2020, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act created a temporary federal unemployment insurance program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is administered in Massachusetts by the Department of Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits for individuals who do not qualify for other types of unemployment benefits.
According to the indictment documents, Thompson and his co-conspirator have filed more than 100 fraudulent PUA claims resulting in more than $1.2 million in payments. It is alleged that about half of the PUA claims were made on behalf of individuals living outside of Massachusetts. In some cases, Thompson recruited individuals from other states to apply for PUA in Massachusetts, making claims on their behalf, and receiving kickbacks in return.
The wire transfer fraud charges face up to 20 years in prison, up to three years in prison under supervision and a $250,000 fine. Sentences are imposed by a federal court based on US conviction guidelines and other legal factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Frederick J. Regan, US Secret Service Special Agent, Boston Field Office; and Jonathan Mellone, special agent in charge of Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Bureau of Investigations, made the announcement. the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance; US Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, Newark Field Office; and the New Jersey State Police have assisted in the investigation. US Assistant Attorney Christopher J. Markham of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is pursuing the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to pool the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to fight and prevent pandemic fraud. The Task Force is strengthening efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assist agencies charged with managing emergency programs to prevent fraud, including by expanding and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, resources and identifying techniques to detect fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and leveraging information and insights gained from past enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
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 (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or using the NCDF web complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The details in the tax documents are allegations. The remaining defendant shall be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a court.