Government employee was unemployed while working, accounts hacked
It was supposed to help people in difficulty get unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Instead, she scammed them and the Get Rich System, federal officials say.
In what prosecutors describe as internal work at the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, a contract worker faces federal charges for allegedly hacking legitimate unemployment accounts and creating new bogus claims that paid her money. She even filed for unemployment on her own behalf, despite the fact that she was actively working for the agency.
“This case involves a corrupt contract employee working for the Michigan State Unemployment Insurance Agency,” an FBI agent wrote in a criminal complaint filed in US district court.
According to the complaint, Autumn Mims, 28, of Birmingham, hacked into the accounts of at least two Michiganders who had filed for unemployment and created additional fraudulent claims that defrauded the government of thousands of dollars in unemployment linked funds to the pandemic. .
The Mims did so, authorities said, by changing the way people contact the employment agency, including changing their authentication email addresses, passwords and account information. banking. She then certified additional claims under the hacked unemployment accounts and diverted the payments to a new bank account she had access to, investigators said.
“In other words,” the FBI agent wrote, “Mims is using his access to facilitate the fraudulent ‘takeover’ of legitimate Unemployment Insurance (Unemployment Insurance) accounts.”
After: Answer Our Damn Calls: Theft Victims Go To Michigan Unemployment Agency
After: Whitmer: Michigan to use $ 300 federal unemployment bonus as incentive to return to work
According to court records, Mims collected nearly $ 15,000 in bogus unemployment claims using his own name, and an additional $ 40,000 using the names of two others – unsuspecting individuals who had filed legitimate unemployment claims, but had their accounts hacked.
Mims, one of dozens of Michiganders accused of pandemic-related unemployment fraud, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Her lawyer, Kirsten Irey, was also not available for comment. Mims, who is out on bail, is charged with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
According to the complaint, Mims was hired in August 2020 as a contract employee for the Michigan State Unemployment Insurance Agency, as an unemployment examiner. His duties included reviewing, processing and verifying the legitimacy of unemployment insurance claims.
Prosecutors said that shortly after Mims was hired, she began using her insider access to fraudulently process claims on behalf of third parties without their knowledge or permission.
To stop the scam, they said, the Mims fraudulently opened unauthorized bank accounts on behalf of third parties, had bogus claims filed for unemployment in those illegitimate accounts, and then pocketed some of the money. Fly. Mims was also receiving unemployment insurance benefits for herself by claiming she was unemployed.
“These accusations show our continued commitment to prosecute those who attempt to use the COVID-19 crisis to steal taxpayer funds and get rich fraudulently,” he added. Lawyer Saima Mohsin said when announcing the charges.
Detroit FBI Chief Timothy Waters added, âAutumn Mims was hired as a Michigan Unemployment Insurance Examiner to protect taxpayer dollars. Instead, she is accused of abusing her position to steal funds intended for Michiganders in need. “
Mims is no longer employed by the unemployment agency.
According to court records, here is what led to the charges against Mims:
In June, federal and state investigators began investigating Mims after the unemployment agency noticed several anomalies in Mims’ work activity, including that many of the claims she was accessing were unaffected by claims. work items. Additionally, Mims was using her access to make changes to claimants’ unemployment accounts without any evidence that she had spoken with that person or that the claimant had contacted the agency.
Investigators linked activity to Mims through his unique unemployed username, “mimsa” in the state’s computer system. The Mims did not show up daily at the office, but worked virtually from home.
According to state unemployment records, around August 2020, an unemployment claim was filed on behalf of a person identified in the prosecution documents as SM. This was a legitimate request and two payments were made to the account provided by SM.
Then, in December 2020 and again in January 2021, SM received unemployment benefits for a single week ending April 18, 2020.
But state records show that SM has not certified any additional weeks of unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, an audit found that in February, Mims used his employee access to search for unemployment claims associated with a specific address in Detroit. It was a building where SM lived.
State audit records show that Mims granted several claims associated with this apartment building, including SM’s claim, although SM’s unemployment claim was never awarded by the state. to be examined by Mims.
Still, according to authorities, Mims accessed SM’s claims and stole his personal information to help create new claims and get through the two-factor authentication system the state uses to prevent fraud.
For example, when making an application for unemployment, the applicant designates the way in which he wishes to receive the authentication code from the State in order to access his account. When accessing their account, an applicant enters their username and password, receives the state passcode in the preferred manner, enters that passcode, and then is granted the access to his account.
Mims used his insider status to change the authentication email associated with SM’s account, which allowed him to access the account and open certifications for more unemployment benefits.
In order to obtain benefits, a person must certify the weeks that they are eligible for benefits. If this process is done online, as happened in this case, the claimant accesses their unemployment account and electronically âcertifiesâ their claim in the system.
But SM never asked for any additional benefits, authorities said, noting that this was confirmed in interviews with SM.
According to state records, on March 3, Mims changed the password for the SM account, allowing someone other than SM to access the account. Mims then logged into the account and received three weeks of additional benefits.
Two days later, according to records, Mims accessed SM’s unemployment account and changed the bank account the agency was to deposit unemployment benefits into.
The red flags have been raised. On the same day, the state’s fraud detection system triggered an investigation and request for identity verification on SM’s unemployment claim.
Three days later, Mims re-accessed SM’s account and rejected the fraud investigation and identity verification request, making his fraudulent requests eligible for more benefits.
The next day, three weeks of unemployment benefits certified by Mims herself were deposited into a Bancorp account. The total amount paid was $ 2,195.10.
This has happened multiple times, with different IP addresses used to access SM’s account.
According to court records, SM contacted the employment agency on April 30 and May 3, noting that she could not access her account. Mims had added an email address to the account, according to records, and SM did not recognize it.
On June 30, federal agents and task force agents raided Mims’ Birmingham residence and seized several items, including handwritten personal identification information for third parties, prepaid debit cards in the names of suspected individuals to be victims in this case, bank account information. the list of the alleged victims in this case as account holders; and the receipts for transactions which are suspected to have been made with the proceeds of the unemployment scheme.
Officers also discovered a receipt that showed the debit card associated with the Bancorp account in SM’s name. It had been used to make a retail purchase, but not by SM
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Enforcement (NCDF) hotline at 866-720 -5721 or via the NCDF web complaint form at: https: // www. .justice.gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.