IBERVILLE PARISH, La. (BRPROUD) – A woman from Plaquemine convicted of mail fraud in October was sentenced this week, authorities said.
Lestreonia Renee Rodrigue, 28, allegedly created a scheme that involved scamming $500,000 in unemployment insurance debit cards and sending an additional $20,833 to her personal bank account.
United States Attorney Ronald Gathe Jr. said her scam was carried out between July 2020 and September 2021 when she allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits and turned in counterfeit claims for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) benefits using names of fake businesses.
According to authorities, Rodrigue reportedly lied and said she was working in California before the coronavirus pandemic broke out and then lost her job due to COVID-19.
Rodrigue allegedly took the scam a step further by submitting false insurance claims for other people, saying they’d all lost their jobs in the same way. She found these other people’s names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers on social media, officials say.
According to authorities, in some cases, the individuals knew what Rodrigue was doing with their identities and in other cases, the victims were unaware of her actions.
Officials say that after she submitted the claims and received money, she either gave a portion to the person whose identity she was using or kept all the funds for herself.
According to a release from the Department of Justice, this was how Rodrigue obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance debit cards in the mail.
Rodrigue also found a way to scam both lenders and the federal government, through the Small Business Administration. She is accused of submitting or having others turn in forged bank statements, false tax documents, and inaccurate PPP applications.
According to the United States Department of Justice, she was ordered to serve 44 months in federal prison along with an additional three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered Rodrigue to pay $663,259 in restitution.