COLUMBUS – Audrey Costar, 46, of Whitehall, Ohio was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 48 months in prison for using 50 stolen identities to file for unemployment benefits in eight states over three years. She was also ordered to repay $78,674 she received illegally.
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 sentence handed down today by Senior U.S. District Judge James L. Graham.
According to court documents, Costar used 50 stolen identities, including some she stole over the internet, to electronically file false unemployment insurance claims in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah between February 2009 and December 2012.
Costar also used some of the identities to open bank accounts or cash value cards over the internet to which the unlawful unemployment benefits would be deposited. After the payments were made, Costar would withdraw the payments using an automated teller machine and used the money for her own benefit. Costar was able to defraud the UI system while residing in both Ohio and New York. She collected approximately $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.
Costar pleaded guilty on April 5, 2013 to two counts of theft of government funds and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Secret Service agents, and Social Security Administration Inspector General, and Financial Crimes Chief Brenda S. Shoemaker, who is representing the United States in this case.