- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2021

Federal prosecutors announced charges Monday against a Buffalo woman they said bilked the government of nearly $50,000 in coronavirus unemployment benefits, then used the money to pay for a trip to Florida and two plastic surgeries.

Shaneesha White was charged with embezzlement and fraud and had her first court appearance Monday. She was released with conditions.

Investigators tipped to the scheme when New York officials alerted them that a prisoner was getting paid unemployment. When investigators went to track it down, they found the internet connection used to sign up came from an address in Buffalo, which also had been used to apply for unemployment benefits for two other people — including one account in Ms. White’s own name.

Unemployment payments were made to the address on debit cards, and bank videos showed Ms. White withdrawing money on all three cards, according to an affidavit filed by Michael Nunziato, a special agent for the federal Department of Labor.

Investigators tracked the cards’ use and say Ms. White prepaid for $5,500 worth of plastic surgery at a clinic in Miami. While in Florida she also used the cards to pay for cosmetics and make purchases at a smoke shop.

Ms. White told authorities she knew the other two people whose names she was using to collect unemployment. In one case, she said, the other person was aware. In the case of the prisoner, his spouse provided his information to Ms. White.

Congress earlier this month approved a third round of boosted unemployment benefits.

The program has been the subject of serious fraud, with particular worries over bogus claims in California and Nevada.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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