Woman admits $145,000 stimulus check fraud


SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A Modesto woman pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in San Francisco to participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by filing more than $145,000 in claims dunning check.

Sheila Denise Dunlap, 51, was charged in a federal indictment last May with participating in a wire fraud conspiracy to file dozens of fraudulent applications for Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), more commonly known as stimulus checks.

The EIP program was part of the CARES Act, a federal relief bill enacted in March 2020 to address the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the EIP provision of the CARES Act, individuals who earned less than $99,000 on their 2019 tax returns and those whose income was low enough that a tax return was not required were eligible to receive EIP funds. EIP payments were $1,200 per adult and $500 for an eligible child.

In her plea agreement, Dunlap admitted that she conspired between March 2020 and July 2020 with her son to obtain the personally identifiable information (PII) of others and use that information to request EIP funds. Dunlap’s son was then serving a capital sentence on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Dunlap admitted in his plea deal that his son, identified in the deal only as DW, sent him the personally identifiable information of his fellow inmates as well as the same type of information for others they suspected of being considered non-filers of 2018 or 2019 tax returns, thus making them eligible for EAP funds.

Dunlap admitted to using the information to file several fraudulent requests for EIP funds through the Internal Revenue Service’s online EIP portal. In each of the requests, Dunlap listed his own Bank of America account to receive payments.

Dunlap detailed in his plea agreement that in or around April 2020, his son coordinated with another to email him a spreadsheet containing the PII of 9,043 people.

His son advised Dunlap to file the fraudulent EIP claims using the PII of the youngest listed adults first. DW and Dunlap both opined that these younger, college-age individuals likely lacked sufficient income to trigger the filing of a 2018 or 2019 tax return and were therefore likely non-filers eligible for EAP payments. .

Dunlap admitted that in May and June 2020, she used information belonging to real people — details of which included their names and social security numbers — to electronically file 121 EIP claims. She admitted that each EIP claim contained false statements and directed payment to her bank account. Dunlap filed claims totaling $145,200 in EIP payments.

Dunlap pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy, which carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She also pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a two-year prison sentence consecutive to any other sentence, plus a maximum fine of $250,000.

Currently out of custody, Dunlap will be sentenced on June 24.

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