North Carolina woman pleads guilty to $130,000 unemployment fraud

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(Photo Courtesy U.S. District Court, Norfolk.)
(Photo Courtesy U.S. District Court, Norfolk.)

A North Carolina woman could face up to 22 years in prison for defrauding Virginia’s unemployment insurance system of roughly $130,000.

Paula Lane, 47, pleaded guilty in federal district court in Norfolk Thursday to charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft stemming from her role in a scheme to steal identities and file false unemployment claims, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. One of the mailing addresses she used was in Suffolk, according to court documents.

Lane, formerly of Corapeake, N.C., created fake companies and used stolen or unauthorized identities to file false employee and wage information with the Virginia Employment Commission, according to the release. She filed unemployment claims under the names of the individuals, alleging they had been laid off by one of her fake companies, according to court documents. She received payments from VEC through direct deposits into her bank account or through EPPIC cards, which are debit cards given to claimants. Between August 2013 and August 2014 , she collected approximately $130,000. She used 30 false identities to carry out her scheme.

A federal grand jury indicted Lane on June 9.

She will be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2017. She faces a maximum of 20 years on the mail fraud count and a mandatory two-year sentence, to be served consecutively, on the aggravated identity theft count, the release said.

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Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.