SUFFOLK, Va. - A father, mother and daughter are all facing mail fraud charges after federal prosecutors allege they got $382,302 in unemployment benefits fraudulently by using the information of 27 inmates.
Bubble Jones was an inmate at Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville, Virginia.
Court documents reveal that prosecutors allege that Bubble is the father of Kanaejah Parker. He is also married to Tamara Jones, who is Kanaejah’s mother.
He is accused of recruiting other inmates at Nottoway to provide their personal information like birth dates and Social Security numbers.
Kanaejah Parker is accused of taking the information and filing unemployment benefits with the Virginia Employment Commission.
Records state that occasionally, Kanaejah would provide the information to her mom, Tamara, who would allegedly file the claim.
They claim the scheme went on for six months in 2020.
Authorities say the VADOC inmates were not entitled to receive such benefits.
Court documents state that around June 2020, the VEC began reviewing unemployment benefit claims to identify potentially fraudulent claims.
They state that by August 2020, VEC officials had learned from other states that inmates in correctional facilities were receiving benefits but go on to say that incarcerated individuals are not available for employment, nor are they able to seek full-time employment.
Records say these individuals are unemployed due to their own criminal conduct and not due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those reasons, they are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Authorities continued to investigate and said the VEC obtained a list of inmates housed by the Virginia Department of Corrections and cross-matched the list with unemployment claims.
In November 2020, the VEC froze claims made using the personally identifiable information of known VADOC inmates, according to the records.
Through the investigation, prosecutors allege that the mother and daughter would file weekly updated claims in order to keep getting the unemployment benefits.
Jones is accused of allegedly telling the inmates that they would get a portion of the money that was coming in, but court documents state the family members would keep the majority of the more than $382,000 in proceeds.
Prosecutors allege that much of the money came in the form of a pre-loaded Way2Go debit card that was sent to a relative’s home in Suffolk.
Records say the daughter used the stolen government money to allegedly buy a 2017 C300 Mercedes Benz and to pay for cosmetic surgery.
The mother allegedly used funds to buy a Chevrolet Tahoe and pay criminal defense legal fees for family members.
Some of the money was allegedly put into the father’s jail account.
Records state that in sum, the daughter and mother allegedly filed about 27 successful claims using Nottoway inmates' personal information.
Prosecutors allege that the daughter filed the vast majority of the claims.
As a result of the conspiracy, VEC allegedly paid approximately $382,302 in unemployment benefits on behalf of VADOC inmates who were not entitled to receive such benefits.
Records state that once VEC realized the claims were for VADOC inmates, VEC was able to claw back approximately $96,925, resulting in approximately $285,376.95 in actual loss to VEC.
A few weeks ago, News 3 investigators told you about the multi-million dollar unemployment scam being investigated throughout Virginia prisons may have led to Gov. Ralph Northam’s denial of some promising pardon applications.
In this recent case, records state that Jones would allegedly tell the inmates involved that they would receive a portion of the claim in exchange for providing their personal information.
A News 3 investigation revealed that in other cases inmates claimed they had their personal information stolen, which impacted their potential for a pardon for Northam before he left office.
“I didn't have anything to do with it,” said Khali Pyatt, a Hampton man who claims he was wrongfully convicted of murder in 2001. “I feel like whoever [used my Social Security number to get unemployment funds], they need to get prosecuted because this is possibly hindering my freedom.”
According to federal court documents, the VEC paid out more than $40 million to individuals who submitted claims on behalf of ineligible inmates.
Pyatt and other inmates whose pardons were denied in November 2021 because of “new information discovered during the investigation process” of their applications fear their names were flagged because their social security numbers were used to apply for COVID-19 relief unemployment applications without their knowledge.
“You got people's lives on the line,” Pyatt said from prison in an interview with News 3 investigator Jessica Larché. “It’s people like myself that are very deserving of a second chance.”
News 3 reached out to lawyers for the three accused in this recent case.
Lawyer Andrew Sacks is representing the daughter in this case. He said that his client is a young woman with no prior criminal record and deserves special consideration in this case.
Bubble, his wife and daughter are all facing mail fraud charges.
The father and daughter are also facing aggravated identity theft charges.
There is another court hearing coming up on February 3 in the Norfolk Federal Courthouse.