PUA Fraud Uncovered at SCI-Mahanoy, Other State Prisons
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced charges against inmates and co-conspirators in a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fraud ring. And one of those rings happened at SCI-Mahanoy in Schuylkill County.
In total, 20 inmates and co-conspirators were rounded up in the alleged fraud ring. They were run out of two state prison facilities, SCI-Mahanoy and SCI-Benner in Centre County.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fraud at Pennsylvania State Prisons
The fraud ring run out of SCI-Mahanoy was the smaller of the two, according to information from Shapiro’s office.
But the AG provided information on how this ring operated. It involved one inmate, working on behalf of himself and others locked up at SCI-Mahanoy, and his girlfriend living in York County.
Shapiro says inmate Markal Munford got names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers from other inmates through prison communications. He gave that information to his girlfriend on the outside, Wendy Danfora, from York. They first started cooking up this scheme back in May, according to Shapiro’s office. The scheme was discussed numerous times during phone calls with each other.
Danfora applied for PUA benefits for themselves and those inmates at SCI-Mahanoy. She gave some of the money collected in the scheme to inmates but kept most of it and spent it on herself and her 3 children, Shapiro says. In total, Danfora and Munford bilked $78,994 from 13 fraudulent PUA filings.
PUA Fraud Ring at SCI-Benner
In another more widespread PUA fraud ring running from SCI-Benner, the scheme involved 10 people, including 9 inmates at the state prison.
The amount of money stolen in that ring, alone, totaled $109,900.
Shapiro’s office also uncovered more PUA fraud at SCI-Phoenix but says that it wasn’t an organized effort like at SCI-Mahanoy and SCI-Benner.
“After announcing our first round of arrests in these COVID unemployment scams, I promised that there were more to come,” Shapiro says in announcement of the charges Wednesday. “Today, 20 more individuals have been charged with illegally taking benefits away from hard-working Pennsylvanians who are struggling during this crisis. These arrests are not the end of our investigation, and I’ll continue working with my colleagues at the federal level to track down those heading these schemes, along with those who are willfully participating and breaking the law.”