Miami Woman Indicted for Wire Fraud and Identity Theft Related to COVID-19 Pandemic

BOSTON – A Miami woman was indicted yesterday in connection with allegedly filing for and obtaining fraudulent pandemic-related loans and using those funds for personal expenses.

Danielle Miller, 31, was indicted on three counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Miller was arrested on a criminal complaint on May 11, 2021.

According to the charging documents, from in or around July 2020 through May 2021, Miller allegedly devised and executed a scheme to fraudulently obtain pandemic-related relief loans funded by the federal government – including Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as well as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and related unemployment benefits. To execute the scheme, Miller allegedly used the personal identifying information of at least five individuals to open bank accounts and to apply for more than $900,000 in SBA loans. It is further alleged that Miller misused various identities to apply for PUA benefits. Additionally, it is alleged that Miller possessed counterfeit driver’s licenses in the victims’ names but bearing Miller’s photograph.

As alleged in court documents, Miller maintained an active social media presence via her Instagram account, which had more than 34,000 followers. Posts to this account included a post showing Miller at various luxury hotels in California where transactions were made using the bank account in one of the victim’s names. For example, the luxury hotel Petit Ermitage posted a $5,500 charge to this bank account in September 2020, a few days after Miller’s Instagram account posted a photo of Miller that was geotagged to the Petit Ermitage.

The charges of wire fraud each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charges of aggravated identity theft provide for a mandatory sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other sentenced imposed, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

The investigation is being conducted by Homeland Security’s Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), a specialized field investigative group comprised of personnel from various local, state and federal agencies with expertise in detecting, deterring, and disrupting organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity and benefit fraud schemes.

Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Abely, Chief of Mendell’s Criminal Division, is prosecuting the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

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 (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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