There have been a lot of stimulus checks scams where hackers have tried to rob people of their personal details by using stimulus checks as bait. Recently, a new coronavirus stimulus check fraud surfaced where a woman conspired with her son to get more than $145,000 in stimulus check claims. The Modesto woman faces around 20 years in prison for conspiring with her son to file fraudulent stimulus checks. Dunlap’s son is on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison.
Last week, Sheila Denise Dunlap, 51, pleaded guilty in a San Francisco federal courtroom for conspiring to commit wire fraud and identity theft in filing over $145,000 in stimulus check claims. In May last year, Dunlap was charged for engaging in a wire fraud conspiracy to file fraudulent applications to claim the EIP (Economic Impact Payments).
In the courtroom, Dunlap admitted that she and her son obtained the personal information of over 9,000 people to claim their stimulus checks in 2020. In her plea, Dunlap admitted that her son sent her the personal information of his fellow prisoners. Also, her son, identified only by the initials D.W., sent the details of others whom he believed might qualify for the stimulus checks as non-filers.
Dunlap told the court that she used all this information to file fraudulent claims through the IRS’s EIP Portal. Moreover, Dunlap gave her own bank account details in each fraudulent application she filed so as to get the stimulus checks in her own account.
Dunlap also admitted that her son told her to first file the fraudulent claims using the information of the youngest adults. This is because young adults, who are mostly college-aged individuals, didn’t fall in the income bracket to trigger a tax return, and thus, were likely to fall in the category of non-filers for the stimulus checks.
How Did Mother And Son Carry Out The Fraud?
In her plea, Dunlap admitted that she used the personal information (names and Social Security numbers) of the inmates and other people to file 121 stimulus check claims. Further, she revealed that she conspired between March 2020 and July 2020 with her son to get the personal information of the potential applicants, as well as to file claims. At the time, her son was serving a capital prison sentence on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison.
Dunlap noted that around April 2020, her son coordinated with another person to email her a sheet that carried the personal details of 9,043 individuals. Public prosecutors allege that Dunlap and her son communicated using phone calls and text messages.
She has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy and to one count of aggravated identity theft. The former carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fine, while the maximum penalty in the latter case is two years in prison and $250,000 in fine.
Dunlap, who remains out of custody, is now scheduled to appear before United States District Judge Susan Illston on June 24, 2022.