2 men plead guilty to getting more than $220,000 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits while in prison

Virginia

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Two men have pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $220,000 pandemic unemployment benefits while they were inmates at a Virginia prison from June 2020 to March 2021.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the men were incarcerated at Greensville Correctional Center in Greensville County, Virginia, while the fraud took place.

The DOJ said Mark Hilliard, 36, and Elvon George, 33, collected the personally identifiable information of their fellow inmates and gave it to two outside “facilitators.” Those people then filed fraudulent unemployment insurance claims.

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Those claims were made for unemployment benefits that were expanded by Congress and the Virginia Employment Commission to offset economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Under the expanded program, benefits were made available to gig workers, the self-employed, and others whose employment status the VEC could not easily verify.

Numerous false claims led to $220,000 in benefits, the DOJ said.

Hilliard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with major disaster benefits and is scheduled to be sentenced April 19. George also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with major disaster benefits and is scheduled to be sentenced March 31.

Both men face up to five years in prison, but actual sentences are typically less than the maximum penalties.

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