Dudley Man Pleads Guilty To Theft Of Pandemic Unemployment Funds


Mike Roberts/Lake940.com

A Dudley man has pleaded guilty to being involved in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and misuse COVID-19-related unemployment assistance.

34-year-old Norman Higgs pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris scheduled sentencing for December 17th.  Higgs was first charged in May 2021.

From April to June 2020, Higgs conspired with others to submit fraudulent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims using stolen identifying information of other individuals. The PUA payments were directed into bank accounts controlled by Higgs and others who used the funds for their personal benefit, including to pay off credit card debt and to buy digital currency. In total, Higgs and others obtained over $450,000 in proceeds from over 85 fraudulent PUA claims using stolen identities.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

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 Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or online here.