DOJ: Bristol, Tenn. woman sentenced to 24 months in prison for COVID relief fraud

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – A woman from Bristol, Tennessee was sentenced to 24 months in prison Monday for her role in a scheme to fraudulently file unemployment benefits on the behalf of others.

According to a release from the United States Department of Justice, Melissa Hayes, 51, conspired with others for nine months to file fraudulent claims for at least 37 people.

The release states Hayes and other members of the conspiracy worked together to collect personal identification information of more than 35 individuals, including 15 that were inmates in custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections, and then filed unemployment benefits on their behalf.

The DOJ reports that the total loss to the United States of America is at least $499,000.

Hayes pleaded guilty earlier in 2021 to one count of conspiracy to commit unemployment fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

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