NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A former Newport News man has been sentenced to 68 months in prison for his role to defraud the government of pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

According to court documents, 39-year-old Reginald Prentice Phillips was incarcerated at Hampton Roads Regional Jail from May 2020 through May 2021 for striking a woman in the face and choking her in front of her children, as well as shooting another victim three times over a dispute concerning ten dollars.

Phillips, a documented gang member, planned a scheme with his non-incarcerated co-conspirator to fraudulently obtain federal unemployment benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

13 other inmates were recruited to provide their personal identifying information so that Phillip’s co-conspirator could file fraudulent applications for unemployment benefits on their behalf. Phillips and his co-conspirator openly talked about the fraudulent claims on jail calls, where he would instruct his partner where to send the funds.

The funds were put into Phillip’s commissary account until the account reached its maximum balance, and the remaining funds were deposited in the other inmate’s accounts and eventually given to Phillips.

Phillips was responsible for a total loss amount of $210,310 from the Virginia Employment Commission.

Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson sentenced Phillips on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

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