A state audit in the spring condemned the Georgia Department of Labor, pointing out multiple problems that exacerbated delays. A spokesperson for the DOL called the report flawed and said the department had been hampered by an unprecedented surge of claims, among other issues.
In this case, the defendants allegedly created fake employers and lists of purported employees, and filed more than 5,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims with the state’s labor department. They are accused of stealing at least $30 million in unemployment benefits. Other people were allegedly involved, but were not named by the Department of Justice.
Emory officials say they are in the process of notifying patients whose information is believed to have been involved in this incident. Emory is giving those people a one year service to detect possible misuse of personal information.
According to court documents, the other defendants, all from Georgia, are Tyshion Nautese Hicks, 30, of Vienna; Shatara Hubbard, 34, of Warner Robins; Torella Wynn, 30, of Cordele; Macovian Doston, 29, of Vienna; Kenya Whitehead, 35, of Cordele; A’Darrion Alexander, 27, of Warner Robins; and Membrish Brown, 27, of Vienna.
The stolen unemployment funds were disbursed through prepaid debit cards mailed to addresses of their choice, mostly either in Cordele and Vienna or in neighboring towns.
Some defendants are charged with harsher crimes than others. The charges include conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence; as well as money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Hicks, the former Emory employee, was charged by criminal information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and she pleaded guilty to this offense on Nov. 15. Hicks faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Georgians who believe they are victims in this case should contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness Unit toll-free at (888) 549-3945, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.