A Rhode Island man today pled guilty to his role in a conspiracy to file fraudulent applications for COVID unemployment relief funds in at least eight states, announced United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
Courtney Hilaire, 29, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, fourteen counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess more than fifteen unauthorized access devices, and possession of device making equipment.
Hilaire admitted that, beginning around March 1, 2020, he conspired with others to file fraudulent claims seeking funds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) Program administered by the Small Business Administration. The EIDL program was created to assist individuals who were unemployed due to the pandemic. Hilaire admitted that he and others used stolen Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal identifying information when filing electronic applications for pandemic relief funds from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee.
Hilaire’s participation in the conspiracy first came to the attention of law enforcement in July 2020, after he and others were arrested by Warwick Police when they were found sleeping inside a stolen car parked in a hotel parking lot. Inside the vehicle, Warwick Police discovered 33 counterfeit credit cards, fraudulent drivers’ licenses from multiple states, equipment used to read and transfer information onto credit card magnetic strips, listings of individuals identities and personal identifying information, and approximately $13,000 in crisp, clean $100 and $50-dollar bills.
Hilaire is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court William E. Smith on March 30, 2022.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William J. Ferland.
The matter was investigated by Warwick Police and Homeland Security Investigations.
Rhode Islanders who believe their personal identification has been stolen and used to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits are urged to contact the Rhode Island State Police at email@example.com or the FBI Providence office at (401) 272-8310.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID- 19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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