INDIANAPOLIS — A 21-year-old Ohio resident was sentenced to six months in federal prison after she defrauded the Indiana Department of Workforce Development by exploiting pandemic funds authorized by the CARES Act.
According to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana, 21-year-old Brianna Yerkey of Struthers, Ohio, will serve six months in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Yerkey was also sentenced to one year of probation and was ordered to pay $125,271 in restitution.
Officials said that Yerkey used social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat to advertise that she would file pandemic unemployment assistance applications on the behalf of clients and submit weekly vouchers for a fee. Yerkey would then tell clients to establish an online account with the department and provide her with the login information.
The release said that Yerkey provided fraudulent information regarding the applicant’s address, employment status and their state of residence. Yerkey also falsely stated that a client’s unemployment status was connected to the pandemic which would allow the client to obtain additional benefits.
Over the course of five months, her false and fraudulent claims to the IDWD totaled around $287,311, according to the release.
“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the CARES Act was a lifeline for thousands of Americans suffering economic disaster directly related to COVID-19,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Zachary A. Myers said in the release. “Ms. Yerkey exploited a federal program, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help our most vulnerable populations in a time of instability. These selfish, greedy actions must be rectified. I am grateful for the work of the FBI that led to today’s sentence.”