PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Brandon Segers, 34, of Philadelphia, PA, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, 3 years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $142,069 compensation for fraudulently applying for and obtaining emergency unemployment benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Segers and others submitted bogus claims claiming inmates had lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, and bogus weekly certifications that inmates were available for full-time work despite being incarcerated.
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law. The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides unemployment benefits to people not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended unemployment benefits, including individuals, families and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility to receive weekly PUA benefits is based on a claimant being unemployed for pandemic-related reasons, and it requires the claimant to have been able to work each day and, if offered a job , could have accepted it. Once an applicant is approved to receive benefits, the applicant is required to submit weekly certifications indicating that he or she: was ready, willing and able to work each day; was looking for full-time employment; has not refused any job offer or recommendation; and had declared any employment during the week and the gross salary or other payments received.
In April 2022, the defendant pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and stealing government money. As part of his guilty plea, Segers acknowledged that claims were filed on behalf of inmates who did not lose their jobs due to COVID. Co-defendant and incarcerated individual, Michael Matthews, relayed the necessary inmate information for filing the AUP applications to Segers, a former federal inmate who was previously incarcerated with Matthews, by phone and email. Segers would then file the fraudulent claims and weekly certifications on behalf of Matthews and the other inmates provided by Matthews. Segers compensated Matthews for providing the inmate information by depositing money into his Federal Prison Commissioner’s account. Matthews previously pleaded guilty to related charges and is due to be sentenced July 22, 2022. Co-defendant Dionne Segers’ case is ongoing.
“Pandemic unemployment assistance and small business loan funds are intended to help American workers and small business owners continue to pay their bills and make ends meet, even when incomes have fallen. dramatically due to the pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Romero said. “The thieves who try to steal these funds take advantage of the misfortune of others – defrauding them while defrauding all the taxpayers who fund the program. Segers and Matthews fraudulently obtained thousands of dollars in funds that could have helped struggling businesses and individuals.
“Today Brandon Segers was held accountable for using deception and fraud to line his pockets with PUA funds,” said IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent Yury Kruty. “This is a warning to those who believe the PUA program is a slush fund. IRS CI, along with our partners, remains committed to investigating those who fraudulently target the PUA program.
This matter was investigated by the United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Lanni.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Disaster Fraud Center hotline at 866-720 -5721 or through the NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www.justice. gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.