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Woman pleads guilty to scamming $1M out of Arizona's COVID benefits

Prosecutors say a North Carolina woman rerouted unemployment benefits for 138 people to herself and others.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Editor's Note: The above video is from an earlier broadcast. 

A North Carolina woman pleaded guilty this week to defrauding nearly $1 million in COVID-19 relief benefits out of Arizona. 

Kaila Leaann Shanteau-Jackson, 30, of Charlotte admitted to committing wire fraud to scam Arizona out of funds that should have gone to unemployed residents, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of North Carolina.

The defendant had worked for a financial institution that was contracted with Arizona's unemployment benefits program to mail pre-paid debit cards to qualified recipients. Between June 2020 and September 2021, the defendant admitted to re-routing benefits intended for 138 people to herself and others, prosecutors say.

To execute the scheme, Jackson accessed databases and changed the recipients’ address information to addresses in Charlotte. Once Jackson and others received the rerouted pre-paid debit cards, they either withdrew the benefits in cash from ATMs or used the cards to make purchases.

Jackson's offense carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine. 

Since the government began dolling out benefits at the start of the pandemic, several instances of fraud have been reported throughout Arizona. 

The Arizona Department of Economic Security has previously said that an estimated $4.4 billion in unemployment insurance has been lost to identity thieves during the pandemic. Some of that stolen funding has been recovered.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. 

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: Mujer se declara culpable de estafar por $1 millón en beneficios de desempleo por COVID-19 en Arizona

RELATED: Gilbert man gets 4-year prison sentence for obtaining millions in PPP funds

RELATED: DES: 270 indictments linked to pandemic-related fraud in Arizona

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