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Over $1M stolen from unemployment funds

Over $1 million stolen from unemployment funds
Over $1 million stolen from unemployment funds(Associated Press)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 2:35 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Since the public health emergency, Louisiana has experienced massive unemployment with hundreds of businesses closed.

According to Attorney General Jeff Landry, his office is announcing arrests made of those accused of stealing over one million dollars of government benefits.

“With the unemployment system being as overwhelmed and insecure as it has been, it is no surprise that bad actors are coming out of the woodworks to take advantage of it,” said Attorney General Landry. “So my office will continue investigating false claims and doing what we legally can to bring criminals to justice.”

The Louisiana Bureau of Investigation learned about multiple people operating across several parishes in Louisiana that had conspired to defraud Louisiana COVID unemployment. It is alleged that members of these groups filed multiple fraudulent online claims with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). In total: LBI asserts that over 100 false claims were filed with California EDD, resulting in over $1 million in stolen unemployment funds; and that several of the accused simultaneously submitted fraudulent claims to the LWC, resulting in more than $60,000 being stolen.

  • Kendell Fowler (42 of Baton Rouge) has been charged with Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds and Criminal Conspiracy.
  • Miquel Banks (28 of Plaquemine) has been charged with Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds, Criminal Conspiracy, and Money Laundering.
  • Lasia Brock (20 of Thibodaux) has been charged with Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds and Government Benefits Fraud.
  • Ashley Johnson (32 of Prairieville) has been charged with Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds, Criminal Conspiracy, Money Laundering, and Government Benefits Fraud.
  • Darrolyn Bell (29 of Plaquemine) has been charged with Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds, Criminal Conspiracy, and Government Benefits Fraud.

The arrests were made with assistance from the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Addis Police Department, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and LWC.

“Crime has no geographical boundaries and because of our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, neither do we,” said Sheriff Brett Stassi. “These partnerships are a crucial part in curbing crime and corruption in our communities.”

Adrienne Johnson of Prairieville
Adrienne Johnson of Prairieville(Louisiana Attorney General's Office)

There are currently two other outstanding warrants related to this matter for Adrienne Johnson (37 of Prairieville) and Joseph Mitchell (24 of Baton Rouge). Anyone with information on their whereabouts is encouraged to contact LBI at 800-256-4506 or the local law enforcement agency.

Joseph Mitchell of Baton Rouge
Joseph Mitchell of Baton Rouge(Louisiana Attorney General's Office)

Additionally, LBI received requests for assistance regarding other allegations that eventually resulted in two more arrests.

  • Cole Morden (24 of Denham Springs) has been charged with Government Benefits Fraud. He is accused of knowingly causing the submittal of weekly certifications to the LWC and allegedly collecting over $800 in unemployment funds while incarcerated at the Livingston Parish Sherriff’s Office Correctional Facility.
  • Dana Ganaway (51 of Morgan City) has been charged with Government Benefits Fraud. During an interview with LBI agents, she confessed to submitting false unemployment insurance claims and concealing her employment income for purposes to receive pandemic unemployment benefits. Ganaway allegedly received $8,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits.

The arrests were made with assistance from the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, DOL, and LWC.

“I want to thank all of our law enforcement and agency partners who helped in our efforts,” concluded Attorney General Landry. “I encourage anyone who knows of fraudulent activity related to COVID-19 unemployment benefits to report it.”

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