6 people from Benton Harbor charged in $1 million COVID fraud schemes
Mother, 3 adult children, and 2 others accused of fraudulently obtaining pandemic unemployment insurance benefits and small business loans
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WNDU) - Six people from Benton Harbor have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges relating to pandemic fraud schemes they used to obtain over $1 million in COVID-19 relief, including fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits and small business loans.
The following individuals are charged in the indictment are:
- Roshell Beaty (aka Roshell Clinton, Angel Clinton, and Angel Beaty), 45, of Benton Harbor
- Melvin Clinton (Beaty’s son), 21, of Benton Harbor
- Danielle Branch (aka Danielle Beaty - Beaty’s daughter), 28, of Benton Harbor
- Christopher Branch (Beaty’s son), 27, a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia area who is from Benton Harbor.
- Christopher Bates, 22, of Benton Harbor
- Brianna Rimpson, 24, a resident of the Grand Rapids area who previously lived in Benton Harbor
The indictment alleges that, between April 2020 and December 2021, they all conspired to commit wire fraud by submitting falsified and fraudulent claims and certifications for pandemic unemployment insurance benefits in their own names and in the names of third parties, some of whom were victims of identity theft.
According to the indictment, they all submitted at least 98 false and fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and related certifications in multiple states in the names of at least 61 different individuals. In response to those claims, the states of Michigan, Indiana, California, Illinois, and Arizona paid out more than $764,000 in pandemic unemployment insurance benefits.
All six of them were also charged with respective counts of wire fraud related to pandemic unemployment insurance fraud. Beaty and Christopher Branch are charged with various counts of aggravated identity theft for using the means of identification of other people without lawful authority in connection with the unemployment insurance wire fraud conspiracy. Defendants Beaty, Clinton, Danielle Branch, and Bates are each charged with fraud in connection with emergency benefits.
In addition to charges stemming from unemployment insurance fraud schemes, five of the six individuals are charged in the indictment with varying counts of wire fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with their alleged fraudulent receipt of loans intended to relieve small businesses of burdens and costs associated with the pandemic. Beaty and Clinton face charges for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan in the amount of $49,900, for a “so-called” hair and nail salon belonging to Clinton with 10 employees. The indictment alleges that loan proceeds were used to purchase a 2017 Jaguar F-Pace SUV. Beaty, Clinton, Danielle Branch, Bates, and Rimpson are charged in connection with Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $258,148 for “so-called” small businesses.
A conviction for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, or wire fraud, in connection with a declared major disaster or national emergency is subject to a prison term of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $1,000,000, among other penalties. A conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory prison term of two years to be served consecutively to any other sentence(s) imposed.
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