A Richmond woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to swindling Virginia and U.S. out of more than $1 million in COVID relief funds by using victims’ personal information that she obtained through her state government employment, a prosecutor said.
According to documents obtained by the Associated Press, 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.
“The vast majority of these individuals had no knowledge that their personal identifying information had been compromised and used by the conspirators to file fraudulent applications,” prosecutors said their summary of evidence. However, some of the people whose information was used were aware of the fraudulent claims and shared in the stolen proceeds.
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.
Richmond.com reports that, so far, the government has recovered more than $62,000 of the stolen benefits, which will offset the restitution that she will be required to pay. Mitchell turned over to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service a Navy Federal Credit Union cashier’s check in the amount of $34,853; a second cashier’s check in the amount of $368; and a third cashier’s check in the amount of $27,240.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Mark R. Colombell convicted Mitchell on her guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Sentencing was set for Aug. 23. Mitchell’s alleged accomplice has since died. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kashan Pathan and Carla Jordan-Detamore.