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Woman pleads guilty in $1.2M COVID-19 fraud scheme

(AP) A woman pleaded guilty May 17 in federal court in Virginia to a $1.2 million scheme that defrauded COVID-19 pandemic relief programs using victims’ personal information that she obtained through her state government employment, a prosecutor said.

U.S. Attorney Jessica Aber said court documents show that in one scheme, from May 2020 to August 2021, Sadie Mitchell, 30, of Midlothian, with help from a co-conspirator, defrauded the Virginia Employment Commission by filing at least 20 fraudulent unemployment applications using inmates’ personal information.

As an employee of the Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board, Mitchell had access to a government database, officials said. The conspirators filed at least 30 fake applications in the names of other people whose personal information was obtained, in part, through Mitchell’s database queries, officials said. Through this scheme, the conspirators collected approximately $1 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and unemployment insurance benefits.

From June 2020 to June 2021, Mitchell submitted five fake Paycheck Protection Program applications containing false information, officials said. She also submitted fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications to the Small Business Administration for businesses that didn’t exist.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. She faces up to 30 years in prison when she is sentenced on Aug. 23.

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