Louisiana Woman Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay Over $900,000 For Pandemic Benefits Fraud Scheme

Published April 12, 2023

Louisiana Woman Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay Over $900,000 For Pandemic Benefits Fraud Scheme

Louisiana – A Louisiana woman has been sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay over $900,000 For pandemic benefits fraud scheme.

On April 11, 2023, United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick sentenced Tynea Lynnshay Gray, age 24, of Donaldsonville, Louisiana to 78 months (6 years, 6 months) in federal prison following her conviction for mail fraud. The Court further sentenced Gray to serve three years of supervised release following her term of imprisonment and ordered her to pay $906,534 in restitution.

Gray submitted fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits in California under her name and the names of others between June 2020 and October 2021. Gray also allegedly submitted false claims for Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) benefits in the names of bogus enterprises with fictitious earnings and losses.

Gray falsely claimed that she and others were working in California prior to the coronavirus pandemic and that they lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic through her unemployment insurance scheme. Gray obtained the identities, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of individuals and filed false unemployment insurance claims in their names, both with and without their knowledge. Gray obtained identifying information from people via social media. She either contributed a portion of the monies to others or kept all of the funds after submitting the claims and collecting the funds. Gray received hundreds of thousands of dollars in prepaid debit cards through her scam.

Gray also created a scheme to scam lenders and the United States by filing bogus and fraudulent applications for PPP monies via the Small Business Administration. Gray used fake bank statements, phony tax records, and misrepresentations in her PPP applications to promote the plan.

Gray also falsely reported stolen or lost bank cards in order to acquire new cards with additional pandemic benefit monies. Throughout the course of the fraudulent schemes, Gray caused over $550,000 in prepaid debit cards to be mailed to her addresses, to which she and others were not entitled. Gray also had $20,833 deposited into her bank account to which she was not entitled.

U.S. Attorney Gathe stated, “At a time when over 1 million U.S. Citizens died from COVID-related issues, Ms. Gray took advantage of the system designed to help American taxpayers in this time of need. The sentencing today shows that these cases will not be tolerated. With the help of federal partners such as the FBI and U. S. Department of Labor-OIG, my office will continue to prosecute these cases and redeem taxpayer money.”

“Ms. Gray chose to con the system during one of the most vulnerable times in U.S. history,” said New Orleans FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr. “The FBI is committed to aggressively pursuing those who seek to defraud the American taxpayers for their own personal gain. We thank our partners at the United States Attorney’s Office Middle District of Louisiana and the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor for their dedication in pursuing justice in this case.”

“Tynea LynnShay Gray used social media as a catalyst to defraud the California Employment Development Department (CA-EDD) of more than $500K in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), both in her name and in the names of others, with and without their consent. The scheme orchestrated by Gray resulted in a tremendous loss of pandemic relief needed by those legitimately unemployed as result of the pandemic. We will continue to work diligently to protect the integrity of the unemployment insurance system and bring those who exploit these benefit programs to justice.” said Special Agent-in-Charge Steven Grell, Central Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Labor-OIG investigated the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Edward H. Warner.