East St. Louis Woman Charged In $800,000 Unemployment Insurance Scam

EAST  ST.  LOUIS,  Ill.  –  A  federal  grand  jury  in  East  St.  Louis,  Illinois,  has 

returned  a  7-count indictment charging Talfanita M. Cobb, 49, of East St. Louis, with

participating in a scheme that fraudulently obtained more than $800,000 in unemployment insurance

benefits from three states. The indictment  charges  Cobb  with  conspiracy,  mail  fraud, and 

aggravated  identity  theft.  Some  of  the money allegedly came from federal pandemic unemployment

compensation funds.

“The  COVID-19  pandemic  has  caused  tremendous  pain  and  suffering  in  our  country,”  said 

U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft. “So many Americans have lost their lives, and many thousands

more face severe economic hardship after losing their jobs. For those most affected, the federal

government has approved special funds. It is reprehensible that unscrupulous individuals would take

advantage of these new programs to line their own pockets. These individuals should take note: we

will investigate and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

According to the indictment, Cobb’s co-conspirators used stolen identities to apply for

unemployment insurance benefits in Arizona, Ohio, and Texas. Each application allegedly listed

Cobb’s address in East St. Louis as the address of the applicant. The applications were approved,

and unemployment benefits were issued to the individuals whose names and identities had been

stolen. Some of the funds were allegedly deposited directly into a bank account controlled by Cobb.

After a short time, however, the  co-conspirators  were  able  to  acquire  debit  cards,  which 

the  states  issued  in  the  names  of  the identity theft victims and allegedly mailed to Cobb in

East St. Louis.

The indictment alleges that, after she received the unemployment debit cards in the mail, Cobb went

to various ATMs in the Metro East and withdrew funds from the cards. She is accused of transferring

some of the funds to a co-conspirator using Bitcoin and keeping a percentage of the money for

herself.

Inspector  in  Charge  William  Hedrick  of  the  United  States  Postal  Inspection  Service’s 

Chicago Division  stated,  “Individuals  who  use  the  U.S.  Mail  to  steal public benefit money

designated for citizens suffering unemployment as a  result of a  pandemic must  be held 

accountable.  The  Postal Inspection Service and its law enforcement partners are committed to

investigating and prosecuting those who wish to exploit relief funding for their own personal

benefit.”

An indictment is merely a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, the defendant is

presumed  to  be  innocent  of  the  charges  until  proven  guilty  beyond  a  reasonable  doubt 

to  the

satisfaction of a jury.

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