Two Stoneham residents face federal charges that they used personal information from other people to obtain more than $666,000 in payments from the federal pandemic unemployment program.
In federal complaints unsealed today, Lillian Nguyen and Daniel Maleus were both charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identify theft.
According to an affidavit by an FBI agent who investigated them, the pair somehow obtained the personal information of at least 116 people and used that to create bogus accounts on the Massachusetts pandemic unemployment portal and collect money through a number of bank accounts and phone numbers.
On January 4, 2021, I interviewed Victim 5, a resident of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Victim 5 verified that her [personal ID information] had been used to file the claim but stated that she did not file the claim and has no affiliation with the phone number, address, or email address used.
At least one bank caught onto their ploy, which the feds allege began last April, according to the affidavit: On May 19, Wells Fargo notified Nguyen it would be closing her accounts in two weeks because the bank suspected it was being used for fraud. The affidavit reports a couple days before the intended account cancellation, Nguyen drove to a Wells Fargo office - in East Hartford, CT - and said, fine, she'll close her account right away, but first she wanted the $10,180 that was left in it.
Only problem: Because of the potential fraud, the band wouldn't be releasing the funds. She tried to convince a bank official that there was no fraud, just family members using her account because they don't have bank accounts of their own.
The representative reiterated that the “MA DUA Cares” funds were “confirmed to be unauthorized”. The representative then asked NGUYEN to confirm that “the DUA . . . was from your family” and that NGUYEN had “used those funds”, to which NGUYEN responded “yes”. The representative then repeated that “those funds were unauthorized” and declined to release them to NGUYEN.
The next day, the FBI agent who wrote the affidavit stopped by Nguyen's apartment - at the time, she was living in Medford - for a chat. He writes she claims she didn't know all those extra money was flowing into her accounts, let alone where it was coming from, but suggested Maleus might know.
The affidavit continues that for months after that conversation, and after she moved in with Maleus in Stoneham, Nguyen got five new phones and used all of them to submit more bogus claims to the state - and that somebody was logging into the state pandemic-unemployment site to check on the accounts as recently as March 10.