Seattle couple accused of stealing $ 1 million in unemployment benefits and small business loans

Two Seattle residents have been accused of stealing more than $ 1 million in unemployment benefits and federal small business loans during the pandemic.

Bryan Alan Sparks, 40, and Autumn Gail Luna, 22, were charged on Wednesday with stealing at least $ 500,000 in unemployment benefits from the state’s Department of Employment Security (ESD) and loans of $ 520,000 to the Small Business Administration, according to a 16-count indictment filed in the United States. District court.

The unemployment benefit burden appears to be the biggest discovery to date, in dollar terms, resulting from the $ 650 million wave of unemployment fraud that hit Washington last year.

The couple were arrested on June 22 in Washington, DC, with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to the US prosecutor’s office in Seattle.

Prosecutors say that from March 2020 to at least January 2021, the couple used stolen social security numbers and other personal information to file fraudulent unemployment claims and apply for federal loans in the event of an economic disaster.

As part of the program, Sparks and Luna used more than a dozen cell phones and addresses in Seattle, Des Moines, Federal Way, Auburn and Lynnwood, among others, prosecutors said.

Sparks and Luna either sent the products to those addresses or deposited into bank accounts opened using stolen personal information, prosecutors said. Other people could also have been involved in the fraud, according to the indictment.

Sparks and Luna are charged with Conspiracy, Mail Fraud, Electronic Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft. It was not clear if Sparks and Luna had a lawyer.

The indictments are the latest in massive fraud last year, when criminals tapped into federal pandemic emergency relief programs.

In September Reyes De La Cruz III, a former ESD employee, was accused of stealing at least $ 360,000 in unemployment benefits.

In May, federal investigators accused Abidemi Rufai of Lekki, Nigeria, of stealing more than $ 350,000 in benefits. A month later, federal prosecutors charged Chukwuemeka Onyegbula, a Nigerian computer engineer, with stealing around $ 290,000 in profits from ESD and other states.

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