ABINGDON, Va. — A Virginia woman who pleaded guilty to plotting to defraud the government out of more than $1.5 million in pandemic-related unemployment benefits has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution, federal prosecutors said.
Farren Gaddis Ricketts, 31, of Jonesville, and her co-conspirators devised a scheme to collect personal identification information and then submit unemployment claims to the Virginia Employment Commission website for individuals who were ineligible to receive pandemic unemployment benefits, including inmates in state prisons, according to a news release from the U.S. Justice Department.
Court documents said Ricketts registered a business with the Virginia State Corporation Commission and advertised it as a financial services company that helped with filing pandemic unemployment claims.
In addition to receiving unemployment benefits herself, Ricketts charged fees to over 120 bogus clients for the service of filing their fraudulent claims, prosecutors said.
Between May 2020 and February 2021, Ricketts and her co-conspirators filed more than 150 fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment benefits, the news release said. For many of these filings, Ricketts created fraudulent documents to support the claims, including fraudulent IRS forms purporting to show pre-pandemic income.