ODJFS worker, accomplice accused of conspiring to release nearly $6M in fraudulent COVID benefits

An Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and co-conspirator allegedly worked together to fraudulently release nearly $6 million in COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

Alana Hamilton and Lasheta McClellan were indicted on 19 charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft, tampering with records, money laundering and for filing incomplete, false or fraudulent tax returns in Franklin County, according to the Office of the Inspector General in Ohio.

The investigation began in February 2022 after ODJFS referred an allegation of wrongdoing to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Investigative Group. Hamilton was reportedly a former ODJFS worker and intermittent customer service representative.

As a CSR, Hamilton reviewed PUA claims to make sure the proper identity verification and employment documents were filed, according to the Office of the Inspector General.

Hamilton allegedly accessed unassigned claims with no work-related purpose and redetermined PUA verification and eligibility without the appropriate documents, resulting in unemployment assistance to be released fraudulently.

The investigation also determined Hamilton and McClellan worked together to defraud the state, according to the inspector general’s office.

“Hamilton admitted to investigators during an interview that she was working with McClellan, stating that McClellan would charge claimants a fee to assist them in receiving fraudulent PUA monies,” according to a press release from the Office of the Inspector General. “McClellan would, in turn, pay Hamilton a fee for releasing PUA benefits to ineligible claimants.”

The pair also reportedly worked separately to fraudulently release PUA funds.

Together, they fraudulently issued 40 claims worth $1,171,561, according to the Office of the Inspector General. Hamilton also released 104 claims worth $2,395,594.50 and McClellan released 86 claims worth $2,339,512.

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