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Michigan unemployment agency contractor pleads guilty to $3 million fraud

Brandi Hawkins facilitated over 700 fraudulent claims that paid out $3.8 million

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KDOL combats unemployment claim fraud

Authorities combat unemployment claim fraud.

DETROIT, Mich. (WJRT) - A contract employee with access to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency database pleaded guilty to her role in facilitating a $3 million fraud scheme.

Brandi Hawkins faces up to 20 years in prison when she receives her sentence in October.

Prosecutors say 40-year-old Hawkins worked with numerous people on a scheme to defraud Michigan’s unemployment system by filing fake claims. Other conspirators filed fraudulent claims, often using stolen identities, and Hawkins used her access to move them through the system to receive payment.

Authorities have identified some of the co-conspirators and are working to identify others.

Investigators say Hawkins approved over 700 false claims, which paid out over $3.8 million and received bribes from the people who filed them. The scheme could have resulted in $12 million worth of fraudulent payments if each claim had been paid in full.

“Facilitating a fraudulent scheme to enrich yourself and others by stealing unemployment compensation earmarked for pandemic assistance is a vicious crime,” said IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Kelly Lewis.

Prosecutors say Hawkins used her proceeds from the scheme to purchase high-end handbags and other luxury items. Law enforcement officials seized $200,000 at her residence when they served a search warrant.

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