NJ man admits stealing over $450,000 in unemployment benefits
NEWARK – A Union Township man pleaded guilty Monday to illegally obtaining more than $450,000 in unemployment insurance benefits from programs created in response to the pandemic.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said Maurice Mills, 29, who is also a resident of New York, admitted to wire fraud in a virtual appearance before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti.
Mills defrauded the New York unemployment system, not New Jersey’s, and specifically the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation established in March 2020 by the federal CARES Act.
PUA provided benefits to people who aren’t eligible for traditional unemployment compensation, such as the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers. FPUC provided an extra $600 a week, later reduced to $300 a week, in unemployment benefits. Both programs expired earlier this month.
Prosecutors say Mills obtained personal identification information, including names, of other people and submitted fraudulent applications for unemployment benefits from his Union residence to New York between August and September of last year. As a result, Mills falsely obtained more than $450,000 in benefits.
Mills faces penalties including up to 20 years in prison and a fine that could exceed $900,000, twice the gross profits from the fraud. The government is seeking to seize through forfeiture any property obtained in connection with the fraud.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2022.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.