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Chattanooga Woman Sentenced To 18 Months in Prison For COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Fraud Scheme

Last week Dana Adkins, 45, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment after being convicted of mail fraud involving a scheme to defraud COVID-19 unemployment programs in several states.  Adkins was sentenced by the Honorable Charles E. Atchley, Jr., in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Following her incarceration, she will be on three years of supervised release.  In addition, she was ordered to pay $150,804 in restitution and to forfeit to the United States $150,000 as part of a money judgment.

As part of the filed plea agreement with the court, Adkins waived indictment by a Grand Jury and pleaded guilty to an information charging her with Mail Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341.

According to court documents, from June 2020 through January 2021, Adkins conspired with others to devise a scheme in which she defrauded the United States government and the governments of Tennessee, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and California to obtain money from the states’ COVID relief programs in the form of unemployment insurance proceeds funded by the United States government.  Specifically, Adkins acquired personal information from others and used it to fraudulently make mass online applications for money earmarked by the states to provide unemployment insurance relief for those affected by the national pandemic.  She falsely claimed in the applications that the individuals whose personal information was reflected on the applications worked in those states.  The states then mailed debit cards to addresses in the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Adkins would receive a percentage of the payout of the fraudulent claim.  The defendant was personally responsible for the fraudulent distribution of over $150,000 of unemployment protection insurance funds.  The scheme itself involved the fraudulent distribution of over $550,000 in unemployment protection insurance funds.  Adkins is the fourth defendant to be convicted in the scheme.

“We remain committed to working with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who callously undermine the United States government’s efforts to help hard-working Americans and small business owners with COVID unemployment relief funds,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton, III.  “Thieves and fraudsters who take these funds under false pretenses are not only stealing from American taxpayers, generally, but also specifically from their neighbors and members of the communities who have businesses that are struggling in the wake of massive losses due to the pandemic.”

“Dana Adkins defrauded the State of Pennsylvania by filing fraudulent unemployment insurance claims.  Adkins stole benefits intended to assist American workers who became unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mathew Broadhurst, Special Agent-in-Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to safeguard unemployment insurance programs from those who seek to exploit them.”

“The FBI along with our federal and state law enforcement partners, will relentlessly pursue those who defraud the government and hold accountable those who use illegal means and criminal behavior to take advantage of others,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph E. Carrico.

Assistant United States Attorney Steven Neff represents the United States.