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Tag Archive | "Federal Bureau of Investigation"

State contractor charged in $2 million unemployment fraud scheme

A Detroit woman was charged in a criminal complaint for her alleged role in a multimillion-dollar unemployment insurance fraud scheme aimed at defrauding the State of Michigan and the U.S. Government of funds earmarked for unemployment assistance during the COVID19 pandemic, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.

Joining in the announcement were Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General; Special Agent in Charge Douglas J. Zloto, US Secret Service; Richard Sheehan, Acting Postal Inspector in Charge of the Detroit Division; Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Sarah Kull, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; and Jeffrey Frost, Special Fraud Advisor, Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Charged is Brandi Hawkins, 39.

According to the complaint, Hawkins was a contract employee for the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.  Her duties included reviewing, processing and verifying the legitimacy of unemployment insurance claims.

Beginning in April of 2020, it is alleged that Hawkins used her insider access to fraudulently release payment on hundreds of fraudulent claims.  Hawkins’ actions resulted in the fraudulent disbursement of over $2,000,000 of federal and state funds intended for unemployment assistance during the pandemic. Over $200,000 in cash was seized from her residence during a search warrant. Hawkins is alleged to have used proceeds from her crimes to purchase high-end handbags and other luxury goods.

”Brandi Hawkins is charged with exploiting the current pandemic to defraud the State of Michigan and United States for her own personal gain,” said U. S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “These are serious allegations, and my office is committed to prosecuting any person who attempts to use the Covid-19 crisis to defraud the people of Michigan.” 

“The U.S. Secret Service is currently focused on criminals attempting to exploit the American people during these unprecedented times of record unemployment due to the pandemic,” said Douglas Zloto, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service – Detroit Field Office. “It is especially egregious when someone in a position of trust, working for an agency created to assist the residents of the State of Michigan, takes advantage of those during their time of need. We will continue to work with our federal and state partners to bring these perpetrators to justice.” 

Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, also made a statement. “An important mission of the Office of Inspector General is to investigate allegations of fraud related to unemployment insurance benefit programs. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of unemployment insurance benefit programs,” she said.

“Brandi Hawkins’ alleged actions are incredibly selfish and without regard for her fellow Michiganders in dire need of financial assistance,” said Sarah Kull, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Field Office.  “IRS-CI will not hesitate to thoroughly investigate any COVID19 related fraud and bring those offenders to justice.”

Richard Sheehan, Acting Postal Inspector in Charge of the Detroit Division said, “This investigation was an excellent example of a partnership between federal law enforcement agencies, working together to bring down this fraud conspiracy. I fully commend the hard work and countless hours put forth by all of the agencies involved, which resulted in bringing Brandi Hawkins to justice.”

“We appreciate U.S. Attorney Schneider‘s quick action to bring this case to justice. The Unemployment Insurance Agency will continue to work closely with state and federal partners to identify unemployment fraud that can be quickly turned over to law enforcement for prosecution,” stated Jeffrey Frost, Special Fraud Advisor, Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Unemployment Insurance Agency.

A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint.  When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Wyse. The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, United States Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Unemployment Insurance Agency, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

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Bank robber sentenced to 151 months in federal prison 

This was the scene after bank robber Edward Ray Lucas crashed his car into another vehicle after a bank robbery in Sand Lake on August 18, 2016.

Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced on Thursday, August 17, that U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney sentenced Lucas to 151 months in federal prison, and also ordered Lucas to serve three years of supervised release following his release from prison and pay a special assessment of $100.

On August 18, 2016, Edward Lucas robbed the Independent Bank of Sand Lake, Michigan. Lucas handed a manila envelope to a teller with these words on it: “This is a Robbery. 100s, 50s, 20s. No die packs.” The teller gave Lucas $5,550, and he fled in a silver Chevy Impala.

A detailed description of the suspect and his vehicle were given to dispatchers. His description was relayed to all police units in the northern part of Kent County as well as to Montcalm County dispatch. Twenty minutes later, a vehicle that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle was spotted on 17 Mile Road in Cedar Springs. A Kent County Sheriff deputy was able to see the driver, who also matched the description that had been broadcasted. The vehicle then ramped onto southbound US-131 as the deputy followed. Once a second deputy caught up to the first, they made a traffic stop, but the suspect then sped away, continuing south on US-131. Police said the vehicle reached speeds up to 90 mph before slowing down and exiting on Post Dr. The suspect vehicle turned onto Post Drive heading toward Belmont.

A very short time later the suspect’s vehicle appeared to cross into oncoming traffic, side swiping a Jeep Liberty before hitting a second vehicle head on. The suspect’s vehicle then left the roadway and rolled two or three times before coming to a rest.

As deputies approached the suspect’s vehicle, the engine compartment burst into flames. Deputies were able to pull the suspect from the vehicle and use an extinguisher to extinguish the fire. They also found the demand note and $5,550 in cash in the vehicle.

A Michigan State Police Sergeant, who saw the crash, said that it looked like the suspect appeared to deliberately stray across the centerline to crash into the other vehicle.

Two individuals from the vehicle that was hit head on were treated at the scene and released. One person from the Jeep Liberty was transported to the hospital with minor injuries. The suspect was transported with much more severe injuries to Butterworth Hospital, where it was determined that he broke his leg, injured his neck, and suffered a severe contusion to his chest.

Judge Maloney noted that Lucas seriously risked the lives of others in fleeing from the robbery. Judge Maloney also noted Lucas had a high risk of returning to bank robbery someday, given that he had two prior bank robbery convictions in Michigan state courts. He was previously convicted of committing two bank robberies in 1999.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, and Federal Bureau of Investigation jointly investigated Lucas’s case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Davin M. Reust prosecuted it.

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Reward offered for info in armed robberies

*N-Jewelry robbery FileThree_2166

*N-Jewelry robbery 2166The Kent County Sheriff Department reported last week that The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation of two recent jewelry store robberies and has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects in the armed robbery at Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry in Grand Rapids and Tapper’s Diamond and Fine Jewelry in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Tapper’s Diamond and Fine Jewelry has offered a $5,000 reward; the Kent County Silent Observer has offered a $1,000 reward and Crime Stoppers of Southeast Michigan has offered a $1,000 reward for a total of a $17,000.

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at approximately 12:29 p.m., four males wearing hooded sweatshirts covering their faces entered Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry to rob the store. At least one of the suspects was seen with a handgun. Shots were fired by employees at the robbers, and one was hit in the torso. The suspects then fled the store.

A few hours later, the same suspects robbed the Tapper’s Diamond and Fine Jewelry Store in West Bloomfield. Police compared the still photos and determined the clothing, bags, and the red and blue gloves are identical in both robberies.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff Department at 616-336-3113 or Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.

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