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Hopewell woman pleads guilty to COVID unemployment scam involving prisoners

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Heat likely to peak on Sunday with temperatures a degree or so over 100.

A Hopewell woman has pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to steal personal information of Virginia prison inmates and obtaining COVID-19 pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

Veldreka L. Crockett, 31, was an employee of a company contracted by the state to provide services related to Medicaid. One of her duties was to determine the eligibility of inmates.

The Department of Justice in a statement said Crockett conspired with two Virginia inmates — Clarence Stith III, 38, of Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Lawrenceville, and Andre C. Mason, Jr., 35, of Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt — to collect personal information about other inmates.

Crockett filed pandemic unemployment claims on behalf of at least 30 inmates with the Virginia Employment Commission, the statement said. They included false statements about the inmates’ addresses, last employers, and employment statuses, including that they were unable to work because of the pandemic.

“The defendants caused the VEC to disburse approximately $318,727 in fraudulent pandemic-related unemployment benefits. The VEC was able to reclaim $25,920 of the disbursed funds after discovering the fraud,” the statement said.

Crockett pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. She faces a maximum sentence of 32 years in prison.

Stith and Mason also pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing hearings are scheduled in October.


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