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Lawrence Woman Pleads Guilty In COVID-Related Unemployment Fraud Case

A Massachusetts woman has pleaded guilty in connection to a scheme to fraudulently obtain about $360,000 in pandemic-related unemployment assistance by using the stolen identities of other people, federal prosecutors said.
Raquel Pena, 40, of Lawrence, pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, The Eagle-Tribune reported.
Pena and her alleged accomplices filed fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance using other people’s identities, prosecutors said. She recruited others to receive the proceeds of the fraudulent claims, which were then withdrawn from their bank accounts and turned over to Pena, prosecutors said.
The investigation connected Pena and others to more than $360,000 in unemployment claims between May 2020 and March.
She faces sentencing on Nov. 4.
The PUA program provides benefits to people not eligible for other types of unemployment benefits, for example the the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers

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