Talent and Economic Development
Dec. 1, 2017 - A Brownstown Township man was sentenced to 5 years in prison today after pleading guilty to defrauding the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency out of over $726,000, announced Acting United States Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch.
Lemisch was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge James Vanderberg, Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Wanda M. Stokes, Director, Michigan Talent Investment Agency, Unemployment Insurance.
Byron Williams, 50, pleaded guilty in June before United States District Court Judge Sean F. Cox to wire fraud for his leadership in a sophisticated scheme utilizing five fictitious companies and more than 114 identities to defraud the Agency.
According to court records, between 2012 through 2016, Williams systematically obtained personal identification information for 114 individuals, and then used that information to submit fraudulent on-line claims for unemployment compensation benefits. Some of the identities were from individuals who participated in the scheme, and received a portion of the benefits from the fraudulent claims paid out on their behalf. Many of the identities utilized were stolen, leaving a large number of identity theft victims.
“Identity theft is a serious crime, often requiring victims to spend years restoring their credit. Today’s sentence recognizes not only that the defendant harmed individuals, he harmed the public by stealing nearly three quarters of million dollars intended to help the unemployed. Such conduct rightfully deserves the serious punishment handed down by the court today,” Lemisch said.
"Individuals who defraud the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program divert limited public funds meant for those legitimately in need of temporary economic support”, said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “Today, Mr. Williams was held to account for his fraud scheme which could have undermined the solvency of this important safety net for the unemployed.”
“This case shows our commitment to pursue all available avenues to stop this type of fraud,” stated Wanda M. Stokes, Director, Michigan Talent Investment Agency, Unemployment Insurance. “I want to commend all the agencies involved in this matter.”
The case was investigated by special agents of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, the FBI with the assistance of the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.