TAMPA — Two Tampa men pleaded guilty Wednesday to making fraudulent unemployment claims that netted them over $1 million in benefits during 2020.
Kary Stevenson, 47, and Corey Quinn, 35, conspired to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa said in a news release. Each man could receive up to seven years in federal prison — five years for the conspiracy charge and two years for identity theft.
Plea agreements describe how the pair collected the money, obtaining the personal information of strangers and making unemployment claims in the strangers’ names. They had the benefits deposited into bank accounts and used debit cards to withdraw money from ATMs or to make purchases at stores.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimated that Stevenson and Quinn defrauded the U.S. government of at least $1.01 million.
Stevenson and Quinn took advantage of expanded unemployment benefits provided by the federal government at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Some fraudulent claims were made in the names of people who would not have qualified for unemployment except for the expanded benefits.
Helping in the investigation were the Department of Labor, the U.S. Secret Service and the Tampa Police Department. The U.S. Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in May 2020 to help prevent pandemic-related fraud but it was not clear whether the task force was involved in this case.
Unemployment fraud has exploded during the pandemic, with some theives pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Convictions are coming nearly every week. Earlier this week, a Sioux City, Iowa, woman who stole at least $24,235 from the U.S. Treasury and the states of Georgia, Michigan and Ohio was sentenced to six months..