Federal prosecutors: East St. Louis woman stole $800K in unemployment scam


(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A federal grand jury indicted an East St. Louis woman for her role in a massive unemployment insurance scam.

According to court documents, 49-year-old Talfanita Cobb was indicted on seven counts ranging from conspiracy, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

Some of the money allegedly came from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) fund, which was established to help people who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is reprehensible that unscrupulous individuals would take advantage of these new programs to line their own pockets,” U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft said. “These individuals should take note: we will investigate and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Prosecutors allege Cobb’s co-conspirators used stolen identities to apply for unemployment benefits in Arizona, Ohio, and Texas. Each applicant put Cobb’s East St. Louis residence on the application. Those applications were approved and benefits issued to the people whose identities had been stolen.

In all, more than $800,000 in unemployment benefits had been approved and distributed.

Cobb received some of the unemployment funds through direct deposit to an account she controlled, prosecutors say. The co-conspirators acquired debit cards and mailed them to Cobb as well.

After receiving the debit cards, Cobb allegedly went to various ATMs in the Metro East area and withdrew money from those cards. She then transferred some of the money to a co-conspirator using Bitcoin and kept a percentage of the funds for herself.

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