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Former VA Nurse Gets 18 Years For Unemployment Aid Conspiracy

After trying to defraud multiple states out of millions in unemployment aid, former federal employee Heather Huffman was sentenced to 18 years in prison for leading a conspiracy to take the funds. She is accused of filing 220 applications using 120 names, obtaining over $2 million in the $3.5 million she claimed in unemployment, Scripps News reports. States Huffman attempted to defraud include Washington, Virginia and California,. Huffman targeted expanded unemployment programs that were in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prosecutors believe Huffman led and organized others, including family and friends, to take unemployment benefits. Huffman used aliases from identity theft victims, witting co-conspirators and inmates. She also included false wage and employment history on the fraudulent unemployment applications.

Her sentencing was delayed after she did not appear for a November 2022 hearing. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Huffman procured counterfeit government identification and fake credit cards. She was apprehended in March in Kansas City. Prior to her conviction, Huffman was a registered nurse at the Veterans Affairs Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center in Richmond, Va., The Justice Department has taken over 700 enforcement actions involving $836 million in fraud related to COVID-19 benefits. During the pandemic, the federal government provided an extra $600 per week in unemployment in addition to typical unemployment benefits. The government also made unemployment available for workers typically ineligible for unemployment benefits, such as contract workers and those who were self-employed.


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