FBI: Struthers woman arrested for alleged pandemic unemployment benefit scheme
A Struthers woman is being investigated for allegedly conducting an illicit scheme to make money by helping others fraudulently collect unemployment benefits offered by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A wire fraud complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Youngstown against Brianna Yerkey by a Special Agent with the FBI’s Complex Financial Crimes Squad in the Indianapolis FBI Field Office.
The Complex Financial Crimes Squad investigates financial crimes, fraud, and other white collar criminal matters.
Dating back to at least the summer of 2020, the FBI said it has received numerous complaints about individuals across the country promoting unemployment insurance fraud or other COVID-related fraud schemes on social media sites.
According to an FBI affidavit, using a false address and employer, Yerkey collected $3,592 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development in early 2021.
The affidavit also alleges that through social media, Yerkey also prepared fraudulent PUA applications for 50 people, charging them anywhere between $500 and $1,300 each.
Investigators say Yerkey used the name Lindo Bri on her social media accounts as part of the alleged scheme.
The FBI complaint singles out three of those alleged clients, each of whom collected $6,286 in PUA benefits from Indiana. The affidavit doesn’t identify the three clients, other than to state that one is from Struthers and another from Youngstown.
The complaint says the clients sent Yerkey the application fees to her through the Cash App financial platform.
The FBI also interviewed the owner of the business where the PUA applicants claimed to have been laid off due to the pandemic. The business owner told the Special Agent that the 45 people who used the business to claim unemployment had never been employed there.
A warrant was issued for Yerkey for an initial appearance on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Youngstown.
Bond was set at $20,000 for Yerkey, who is scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom in Indianapolis on Monday.