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Illinois attorney general obtains guilty plea against 2 postal workers in covid-related fraud case.

April 10, 2024

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Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced his office obtained a guilty plea in a case against two former U.S. Postal Service (Postal Service) employees who stole assistance from COVID-related stimulus programs.

Raoul’s office prosecuted Louis K. Lay, Jr., 34, and his spouse, Erica M. Beck, 36, both of Chicago, who each pleaded guilty to one count of theft of governmental property, Class 1 felonies. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Charles Burns required Lay to pay $9,500 in restitution and sentenced him to two years of probation in addition to 180 days in the Cook County Jail. Beck was ordered to pay $48,600 in restitution and sentenced to two years of probation.

“Individuals who stole from pandemic-era programs defrauded taxpayers and the government at a time many Americans, even friends and neighbors, were experiencing joblessness and in need of assistance,” Raoul said. “I will continue to collaborate with federal and state agencies to hold individuals accountable for stealing from critical programs many residents rely on.”

Raoul charged Lay and Beck in June of 2022 as part of a wide-ranging investigation that began after the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was informed that certain Postal Service employees were potentially receiving paychecks while drawing unemployment insurance benefits. The OIG contacted the Attorney General’s Task Force on Unemployment Benefits Fraud, which conducted a joint federal and state investigation involving the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI. As part of the investigation, four additional Cook County residents were charged for their roles in applying for a range of government loans and assistance during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021 Attorney General Raoul partnered with the FBI to establish the Attorney General’s Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud in response to increased reports of alleged unemployment insurance benefits fraud throughout Illinois and nationally. The task force is aimed at enhancing collaborations between state and federal agencies investigating and prosecuting forms of unemployment benefits fraud.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Haley Bookhout handled the case for Raoul’s Public Integrity Bureau.

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