Michigan UIA employee, Detroit woman charged in $1.8M unemployment scam

Michigan investigating if new hires are stealing from Unemployment Insurance Agency

Two people, including an employee of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, have been charged for their alleged role in a $1.8 million unemployment insurance fraud scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Jermaine Rose, 41, and Serenity Poynter, 36, have been charged in a scheme aimed at “defrauding the State of Michigan and the U.S. Government of funds earmarked for unemployment assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the complaint, Jermaine Rose was a Lead Claims Examiner for the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.  His duties included reviewing, processing and verifying the legitimacy of unemployment insurance claims.

Beginning in May, 2020, it is alleged that Rose used his insider access to release payment on hundreds of fraudulent claims. Specifically, Rose is alleged to have used his network credentials to override “fraud stops” on unemployment insurance claims that the State computer system had identified as potentially fraudulent.

Related: State worker accused of bilking Michigan unemployment insurance agency of $2 million

Rose’s actions resulted in the fraudulent disbursement of over $1.1 million of federal and state funds intended for unemployment assistance during the pandemic. Rose attempted to override another $761,000 in fraudulent unemployment claims, but the State was able to prevent payment on those additional claims.

Rose is alleged to have worked with outside co-conspirators as part of his fraud scheme. One of those alleged co-conspirators is Detroit resident Serenity Poynter.  Poynter, an associate of Rose’s, is alleged to have filed at least 25 fraudulent claims seeking over $350,000 in unearned unemployment insurance benefits.

Poynter allegedly used variations of her own name and bogus social security numbers to support these fraudulent claims. The State’s automated system identified many of those claims as potentially fraudulent, but Rose is alleged to have overridden many of those fraud-stops, leading to approval of numerous fake unemployment insurance claims.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John K. Neal. The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, the United States Secret Service, and the Unemployment Insurance Agency, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.