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June 23, 2022

ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL CHARGES SIX COOK COUNTY RESIDENTS OVER UNEMPLOYMENT, SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION LOAN FRAUD

Charges Stem from Investigation by Raoul’s Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud into Alleged Fraud by Postal Service Employees

Chicago  — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced charges against six former or current U. S. Postal Service (Postal Service) employees as a result of a wide-ranging investigation by the Attorney General’s Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud. Raoul alleges all six individuals fraudulently applied for a range of government loans and assistance during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All six defendants are charged in Cook County Circuit Court with fraudulently seeking loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) for businesses that did not exist. Additionally, four defendants are charged with applying for fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits through the state of Illinois while being employed by the Postal Service. Today’s charges are the first brought based on an investigation by the Attorney General’s Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud.

“Thousands of Illinois residents and small businesses were forced to rely on unemployment benefits and loans from the SBA during the height of the pandemic,” Raoul said. “Thieves who intentionally took advantage of the situation to steal money from the government also slowed the processing of legitimate claims. I am committed to continued collaborations through the Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud to ensure individuals are held accountable for their actions at a time when many Americans desperately needed assistance.”

Attorney General Raoul filed over 65 felony counts, including theft by deception, state benefits fraud, loan fraud, wire fraud and forgery, against the following individuals:

  • Davonte Kendall, 30, of Lansing, Illinois.
  • Bria Taylor, 27, of Berwyn, Illinois.
  • Imani Butler, 29, of Dixmoor, Illinois.
  • Raven Daniel, 28, of Bellwood, Illinois.
  • Louis K. Lay, Jr., 32, of Chicago.
  • Erica M. Beck, 34, of Chicago.

Lay and Beck, who are married and are still employed by the Postal Service, also face charges relating to a scheme to allegedly steal $25,000 in economic impact payments from residents living in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.

The investigation began after the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was informed that certain Postal Service employees were potentially receiving paychecks while drawing unemployment insurance benefits. The OIG contacted Raoul’s task force, which conducted a joint federal and state investigation involving the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI. Raoul’s resulting complaint alleges that in addition to fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance benefits, the defendants received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for businesses that did not exist.

“These charges represent our commitment to work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity and trust in U.S. Postal Service employees and critical benefit programs,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Andre Martin, Central Area Field Office, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. “The majority of postal employees are hard-working dedicated public servants. Those charged betrayed the public’s trust and the USPS OIG, along with the law enforcement community, remain committed to safeguarding the integrity of the Postal Service and its employees.”

“The United States Postal Service is one of the most relied upon public institutions in our nation. As Illinoisans and Americans, we expect the highest level of ethical behavior from the postal workers who handle some our most private and sensitive information,” said Kristin Richards, Director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security. “I’m pleased that Attorney General Raoul has taken action that will ensure the public trust is upheld, and I look forward to continuing to partner with him to pursue those individuals who attempt to enrich themselves by defrauding Illinois taxpayers.”

“Unemployment programs exist to support our residents in times of extreme need, not to line the pockets of a select few with ill-gotten profits. This week’s charges are the first, but certainly not the last as we continue to work with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to safeguard public funds,” said Special Agent-in-Charge at the FBI Chicago Division Emmerson Buie, Jr.

“This indictment demonstrates the commitment of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to investigate and bring to justice those who would exploit Federal programs for unlawful personal gain by stealing Economic Impact Payments,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“An important part of the mission of the Office of Inspector General is to investigate fraud involving unemployment insurance programs. This is particularly true when an allegation involves misconduct by federal employees. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and state workforce agencies to aggressively investigate unemployment insurance fraud,” said Irene Lindow, Special Agent in Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

Attorney General Raoul partnered with the FBI to establish the Attorney General’s Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud in response to increased reports of alleged unemployment insurance benefits fraud throughout Illinois and nationally. The task force is aimed at enhancing collaborations between state and federal agencies investigating and prosecuting forms of unemployment benefits fraud.

The public is reminded that the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The cases are being handled by Assistant Attorney General Haley C. Bookhout from Raoul’s Public Integrity Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Megan McGuire Bachman from Raoul’s Criminal Prosecutions Bureau.

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