In a recent case, a Rhode Island man has been sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in a fraudulent scheme to obtain and misuse COVID-19-related unemployment assistance. Dquintz Alexander, 36, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft after conspiring with his co-worker, Norman Higgs, to submit fraudulent claims using stolen identifying information. Through this scheme, Alexander and Higgs were able to receive over half a million dollars in fraudulent payments, using a portion of the funds for personal benefit. The case highlights the importance of combating pandemic-related fraud and the efforts of law enforcement to hold individuals accountable for such crimes.
Rhode Island Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Theft and Misuse of COVID-19 Pandemic Assistance
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was enacted in March 2020 to provide economic relief to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act included various provisions, including the creation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a temporary federal unemployment insurance program established under the CARES Act. PUA provides unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, such as the self-employed, independent contractors, or gig economy workers.
Fraudulent Scheme and Stolen Identifying Information
In a case involving the theft and misuse of COVID-19 pandemic assistance, Dquintz Alexander, a Rhode Island man, was sentenced to three years in prison. Alexander, along with his co-worker Norman Higgs, participated in a fraudulent scheme that involved the submission of false PUA claims using stolen identifying information of other individuals.
Sentencing and Charges
Sentencing of Dquintz Alexander
Dquintz Alexander, aged 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Angel Kelley to three years in prison and three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay forfeiture of $318,281. Alexander pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Charges Against Alexander
Alexander faced multiple charges related to his involvement in the fraudulent scheme. These charges included one count of wire fraud conspiracy, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. The charges were a result of Alexander’s participation in the submission of fraudulent PUA claims using stolen identifying information.
In addition to his prison sentence, Dquintz Alexander was ordered to forfeit $318,281. This forfeiture order was imposed as a consequence of Alexander’s involvement in the theft and misuse of COVID-19 pandemic assistance.
Involvement of Co-worker
Conspiracy with Norman Higgs
Dquintz Alexander conspired with his co-worker, Norman Higgs, to carry out the fraudulent scheme. Together, they submitted false PUA claims using stolen identifying information of other individuals.
Amount of Fraudulent PUA Payments
As a result of their fraudulent activities, accounts controlled by Alexander and Higgs received over half a million dollars in fraudulent PUA payments. Although a majority of the funds were frozen by banks or recovered through the efforts of law enforcement, Alexander and Higgs managed to use over $200,000 of the funds for personal benefit.
Use of Funds for Personal Benefit
Amount Used for Personal Benefit
Out of the fraudulent PUA payments they received, Dquintz Alexander and Norman Higgs used over $200,000 for their personal benefit. These funds were utilized for various purposes, including paying off credit card debt and funding digital currency and online retail brokerage accounts.
Examples of Personal Use
The misappropriated funds were spent on personal expenses and investments. Some examples of personal use include paying off credit card debt, which potentially allowed Alexander and Higgs to maintain a certain lifestyle. Additionally, funds were used to invest in digital currency and online retail brokerage accounts, indicating a possible attempt to grow their personal assets.
Sentencing of Norman Higgs
Norman Higgs, the co-worker involved in the fraudulent scheme with Dquintz Alexander, was sentenced for his role. The details of Higgs’ sentencing are not provided in the available information.
Announcement and Prosecution
The sentencing of Dquintz Alexander and the involvement of both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement agencies were officially announced. These announcements provide transparency regarding the legal actions taken against individuals engaged in fraudulent activities related to COVID-19 pandemic assistance.
Prosecution by Christopher J. Markham
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Markham of the Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit handled the prosecution of the case. Markham’s involvement demonstrates the commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to pursuing justice in cases involving fraud and misuse of pandemic assistance.
COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force
In response to the increased risk of fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was formed in May 2021 and aims to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud by marshaling the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with various government agencies.
Objectives and Efforts
The COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force focuses on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities involved in criminal activities related to the pandemic. The task force works to prevent fraud by enhancing coordination mechanisms, identifying fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing information gained from previous enforcement efforts.
Reporting Fraud Involving COVID-19
National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline
Individuals with information about allegations of fraud involving COVID-19 can report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline. The hotline can be reached at 866-720-5721 and serves as a valuable resource for reporting suspected fraudulent activities.
NCDF Web Complaint Form
In addition to the hotline, the NCDF also provides a web complaint form for reporting fraud involving COVID-19. The online form allows individuals to easily submit their complaints and provide details about suspected fraudulent activities.
Acton Man Sentenced to Nearly Three Years in Prison for Using Stolen Identities to Obtain COVID Relief Funds
In a separate case involving fraudulent activities related to COVID-19 relief funds, an Acton man was sentenced to nearly three years in prison. The individual conspired to use stolen identities to fraudulently obtain disaster loan funds from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Rhode Island Business Owner to Plead Guilty to Money Laundering Conspiracy and Obstruction of Justice
A Rhode Island business owner has been charged and has agreed to plead guilty to money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The charges are a result of the individual’s involvement in laundering tens of millions of dollars.
Middleboro Financial Adviser Sentenced to Over Four Years in Prison for Investment Adviser Fraud and Money Laundering
A financial adviser from Middleboro was sentenced to over four years in prison for committing investment adviser fraud and money laundering. The adviser defrauded vulnerable clients and stole their retirement assets.
In conclusion, the sentencing of Dquintz Alexander for his involvement in a fraudulent scheme to obtain and misuse COVID-19 pandemic assistance highlights the commitment of law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in combating fraud related to the pandemic. The establishment of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force further emphasizes the importance of preventing and prosecuting fraudulent activities. Reporting suspected fraud involving COVID-19 to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline or using the NCDF Web Complaint Form is crucial in identifying and stopping fraudulent actors. The cases mentioned in the related content section serve as examples of other individuals who have been prosecuted for their involvement in fraudulent activities related to COVID-19 relief funds.