State employee used job to help defraud unemployment insurance over $1 million: Feds

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A former Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency employee used her job to help the government defraud more than $1 million through fraudulent claims, federal prosecutors have said.

Adelita Castillo Juarez, 55, of Kent City, was charged on Thursday November 17 along with three other people in the scheme.

Federal prosecutors said Juarez was employed as an Unemployment Insurance Agency examiner and, between May 2020 and January 2022, allegedly processed claims to ensure they were paid. This included his clearing of fraud notices.

Prosecutors said two co-defendants — Evelyn De-Maya Vanderbilt, 32, of Grand Rapids and Inkster; and Mya Michelle Giordano, 42, of Norfolk, Virginia – obtained claimants’ personal information, helped submit claims, and then received some or all of the claim proceeds.

The people they referred for the claims were ineligible for payments because they did not live in Michigan or receive income in the state.

Juarez’s daughter, Francisca Adelita Juarez, 35, of Kent City, allegedly received bribes in connection with paying the fraudulent claims.

Prosecutors said the defendants received money from these programs: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Lost Wage Assistance.

They are accused of defrauding the government of $1,053,401.

“Corruption is a rot that we must root out,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a written statement. “One of my highest priorities is the investigation and prosecution of criminal behavior by public officials. We will identify and prosecute government employees who steal taxpayers’ money. And pandemic fraud, whether committed by public employees or individuals, will remain a priority for my office.

All four are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of public funds.

Additionally, both mother and daughter are charged with disaster fraud.

Vanderbilt and Giordano are also charged with multiple counts of aggravated impersonation.

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