GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Federal authorities say four people, including three from West Michigan and one of whom was a state employee, were involved in a series of schemes that stole more than $1 million from the government.
Adelita Castillo Juarez, 55, of Kent City; Francisca Adelita Juarez, 35, of Kent City; Evelyn De-Maya Vanderbilt, 32, of Grand Rapids and Inkster; and Mya Michelle Giordano, 42, of Norfolk, Virginia, were indicted on 33 counts including wire fraud, conspiracy and theft of public money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Federal investigators say that between May 2020 and January 2022, the four filed faked unemployment claims in Michigan and other states, mostly for people who were ineligible for the benefits because they didn’t live in Michigan. Adelita Juarez was an unemployment insurance examiner for the state at the time, using her role to process the fake claims and clear fraud notices, the feds say. Her daughter Francisca Juarez allegedly got kickbacks. Vanderbilt and Giordano allegedly worked to file the fraudulent claims and collected some, if not all, of the money.
In all, the feds say, the four made off with $1,053,401 in ill-gotten state and federal benefits funded through pandemic relief programs.
“We have zero tolerance for anyone within our Agency or any outside bad actors who try to scam the system designed to help workers who have lost their jobs,” Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Julie Dale said. “Our team won’t rest until those who steal from taxpayers are brought to justice.”
Separately, Vanderbilt is also accused of getting $41,666 from the Paycheck Protection Program through a fraudulent filing.
If the four are convicted of wire fraud, they could spend up to 30 years in prison and be fined up to $1 million.