DETROIT – Investigators are going after anyone who took advantage of the unemployment system. That includes a Metro Detroit man who investigators said withdrew nearly $150,000 before he was arrested.
The Local 4 Defenders obtained federal court documents that break down how he was discovered. The scheme spread across two states and involved fake social security numbers, addresses and driver’s license numbers.
The man is accused of using those to obtain as many as 28 cards meant to help people who were struggling without work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Samuel George Baker is awaiting his day in court.
The case against him began in July. According to documents, a fraud investigator for Independent Bank contacted the FBI to report suspicious activity. The investigator reported large cash withdrawals at bank machines across Oakland County.
Federal investigators said Baker received unemployment benefits from Pennsylvania in various victims’ names on the prepaid debit cards and used those cards to make the cash withdrawals.
In fact, 12 of the 28 cards identified as used by Baker were issued by U.S. Bank for the purpose of receiving Pennsylvania unemployment benefits.
“Unfortunately no good deed goes unpunished. The government tries to assist those in need and people are going to take advantage of that,” Rebecca Davies an unemployment attorney and shareholder at Butzel Long said.
The criminal complaint also lays out how Baker filed three different claims in Michigan. Two with fake social security numbers.
Investigators believe that more than $147,000 was withdrawn from ATMs. There was $44,000 used to buy a Rolex watch at a Southfield Pawn Shop and two cash payments to the same pawn shop. One for $53,000 and another for just more than $17,000 to pay off debt obligations.
“It affects the innocent filer who is trying to receive their monies, but now is held up because of the fraudulent claims or possible delay.
A Bloomfield Township Police Detective was brought in as an identity theft and financial crimes task force officer. Surveillance images from the banks where cash withdrawals were made were used to identify Baker.
Baker is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday.