New Jersey man admits to stealing $1.2 million in unemployment benefits

A New Jersey man who with the help of an alleged accomplice submitted more than 100 fraudulent claims for federal COVID-19-related unemployment benefits that resulted in more than $1.2 million in payments pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Friday.

Omar Thompson, 39, of Paterson, New Jersey, and the other person, whose name was redacted from court documents, filed the claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, according to a statement from the U.S. Aattorney’s office in Boston.

According to the charging documents, Thompson and his co-conspirator submitted more than 100 fraudulent PUA claims resulting in more than $1.2 million in payments.

About half of the PUA claims were made on behalf of individuals residing outside of Massachusetts.

In some instances, Thompson recruited individuals from other states to apply for PUA in Massachusetts, submitted claims on their behalf, and received kickback payments for doing so.

Thompson did not live or work in Massachusetts at the time, said United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell.

PUA benefits were intended for people affected by the pandemic not eligible for other types of unemployment payments, such as gig economy workers and the self-employed.

The charge of 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. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced on March 22.

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