PHILADELPHIA – A Chester County man who applied for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic while he was actually in prison on drug charges has been sentenced to prison on fraud charges, federal officials say.

In a press release, U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbitt Williams announced that Kenneth L. Huggins Jr., 25, of Coatesville was sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison and three years in prison under U.S. District Judge Gerald J. Pappert. for filing a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits during a pandemic when he was imprisoned by a state conviction for drug trafficking, rendering him ineligible for these benefits.

On March 27, 2020, the CARES Act was enacted, which created an Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA) to provide unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and who were not entitled to other unemployment benefits. .

In December 2021, Huggins, who has a criminal record in the county for relatively minor drug crimes and theft, pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud resulting from this scheme of false PUA allegations.

Beginning in July 2020, Huggins abused the emergency program by arranging for his mother, Patrice Hawthorne, who is also accused of the scheme, and a cousin, his co-defendant Dashona Lawrence, to file fraudulent PUA lawsuits on his behalf.

At the time, Huggins was a prisoner in Chester County Jail and was in custody even before the pandemic. Huggins also tried to persuade his co-defendants to file fraudulent applications for PUA for two of his fellow inmates, who were also ineligible for benefits because they were not unemployed as a result of the pandemic, and planned to keep the vast majority of those paid to themselves.

In total, Huggins fraudulently received nearly $ 13,000 in PUA assistance.

“The pandemic unemployment benefits are designed to help working Americans continue to pay their bills and make ends meet, even as hours and wages have plummeted due to the pandemic,” Williams said in a release.

“Thieves who try to seize these funds take advantage of the misfortune of others – disrupt them, as well as rob all taxpayers who finance the program,” she said. “Huggins fraudulently received thousands of dollars in funds that could help people suffering from hardship.”

The case has been investigated by the FBI, IRS and the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, and the prosecution is being conducted by Assistant Attorney General Jessica Rice.

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