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Virginia man wrongly collected $34K in COVID relief for nearly two years

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Posted at 11:21 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 11:21:34-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Seth Hooker, 21, of Newport News admitted that he collected COVID relief funds for over a year and a half and wasn’t entitled to them, according to federal documents.

Court records reveal this took place between June 2020 and September 2021. In total, he was given about $34,000 in COVID relief money.

He reported to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) that he worked for Top Guard Security, but claimed the company went out of business due to COVID.

Federal prosecutors said the company never went out of business, and that Hooker did work for the company for four days, but got fired due to not arriving on time.

Hooker made a plea deal with the government, and agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud. He is currently being held in the Western Tidewater Regional Jail waiting to be sentenced.

Experts said the public can anticipate more and more cases because prosecutors have 10 years to bring up charges for cases like this.

In April, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued information about several cases as they continue to work to prosecute all kinds of COVID-related fraud cases.

“The Department of Justice’s Health Care Fraud Unit and our partners are dedicated to rooting out schemes that have exploited the pandemic,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s enforcement action reinforces our commitment to using all available tools to hold accountable medical professionals, corporate executives, and others who have placed greed above care during an unprecedented public health emergency.”

“This COVID-19 health care fraud enforcement action involves extraordinary efforts to prosecute some of the largest and most wide-ranging pandemic frauds detected to date,” said Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Kevin Chambers. “The scale and complexity of the schemes prosecuted today illustrates the success of our unprecedented interagency effort to quickly investigate and prosecute those who abuse our critical health care programs.”

Billions of dollars were wrongly taken, but the exact amount is unknown, according to experts.

According to the Virginia Coronavirus Task Force, the United States Attorneys for the Western and Eastern Districts of Virginia, the FBI and the Virginia State Police are working to protect the residents of Virginia from fraud and exploitation arising from the current coronavirus pandemic through the formation of the Task Force.

The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force is a joint federal and state group that will be led by Assistant United States Attorneys from both the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia, in partnership with experienced fraud investigators from the FBI and the Virginia State Police.

The mission of the task force is to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Virginia.

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