COLUMBUS – Audrey Costar, 46, of Whitehall, Ohio pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to using 50 stolen identities to file for unemployment benefits in eight states over three years, netting her almost $80,000.
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, James Vanderberg, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, Mark Porter, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service and Elias Papoulias, Resident Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General announced the pleas entered today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Abel.
According to court documents, Costar used 50 stolen identities to electronically file false unemployment insurance claims in Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Arizona, Utah, Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania between February 2009 and December 2012. She collected approximate $78,674 using the scheme.
Costar was also collecting Social Security benefits in her own name at the time. Earnings made through the identity theft scheme were not reported to the Social Security Administration which resulted in her receiving approximately $7,906.78 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
Costar pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of government funds, each punishable by up to ten years in prison, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Each count of aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory two-year sentence to be served consecutive to any other time served.
The court will conduct a pre-sentence investigation before determining the sentence and schedule a date for sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by Department of Labor, Secret Service agents and Social Security Administration inspectors general, and Financial Crimes Chief Brenda S. Shoemaker, who is representing the United States in this case.