Tampa man sentenced to 5 years for fake credit cards, unemployment insurance fraud | Business Observer

A 30-year-old Tampa man was sentenced to five years and one month in federal prison Aug. 1 for making fake credit cards using the names of people whose identities were stolen and receiving $86,804 in unemployment benefits that he had no right.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Merriday also ordered the man, Devaris McClain, to pay $92,346.54 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Labor and several banks.

McClain pleaded guilty in January.

The crimes McClain admitted to committing stretch back to January 2015, according to a plea agreement filed in court documents in January.

McClain and unspecified associates then began making fraudulent loans, according to the filing.

What they would do is buy prepaid cards and then print stolen credit and debit card numbers, as well as the victims’ names, on the front of the cards. Since these weren’t actual credit cards, they would have scratched or somehow altered the magnetic strip on the back. When a teller swiped the card, the strip was unusable, forcing the teller to manually punch in the account number on the front of the card.

They would use the fake cards to buy goods, including gift cards, from retail stores and then sell what they bought to get cash, which was then split by the conspirators.

On Aug. 20, 2016, McClain attempted to spend $1,015.86 at a Walmart store in Brandon using the altered cards, authorities said. In all, he tried using six different cards that had someone’s name and account number on the front. The plea agreement does not say whether he ultimately got away with it or whether those transactions brought him to the attention of authorities.

As for the unemployment insurance fraud, the plea agreement said McClain filed a fraud claim in California using the name, date of birth and Social Security number of a person identified in court documents as JO

The claim was filed online during the pandemic, and the mailing address used on the application is on Deleuil Avenue in Tampa. After the claim was filed, a financial institution sent a debit card ending in 6258 to the Tampa address. At least $13,862 was deposited on the card in JO’s name, according to the filing.

McClain used the card to withdraw money from ATMs, including on July 6, 2020, when he made two withdrawals totaling $1,000 from a machine at 11613 N. Nebraska Ave.

Law enforcement then contacted JO and learned that he was unaware that an unemployment claim had been filed in his name and did not know who McClain was.

McClain was charged on Aug. 4, 2021, and arrested on Aug. 13, 2021, according to court records.

The indictment alleges that between August 24, 2020 and August 26, 2020, McClain used the credit of another person, identified as TM, to withdraw $3,000.

In total, prosecutors say he was able to obtain more than $86,804 in insurance benefits, but court documents do not say how many victims that was. Court documents also make it unclear why it took nearly seven months for him to be sentenced after pleading guilty.

McClain was caught, at least in part, thanks to the efforts of an investigative task force made up of local and federal law enforcement agencies, led locally by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The task force was created as part of a national effort to address COVID relief and pandemic-related fraud that took advantage of the Payroll Protection Program, economic disaster loans, the Main Street Lending Program and unemployment insurance.

To date, the agency has prosecuted 34 defendants who allegedly defrauded the government of nearly $51 million.

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