Woman helps others file 35 fraudulent claims to steal Michigan COVID unemployment money, feds say

Semaje Reffigee accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.

DETROIT – A Detroit woman took a job as a Michigan unemployment insurance examiner and helped a group of others file more than 35 fraudulent claims and steal thousands in COVID unemployment benefits, official said.

Unemployment worker

Court records filed Friday (July 8) say Semaje Reffigee, of Detroit, accepted a job in October 2020 to work for the state of Michigan as an unemployment insurance examiner.

Reffigee was hired to review, process, and verify that unemployment claims were legitimate, according to authorities.

She worked full-time from her home in Detroit and used computer equipment provided by her employer, officials said.

Scheme details

Reffigee is accused of working with a group of people who submitted false claims into the state’s unemployment system between October 2020 and June 2021.

Many of those claims were filed using stolen identities, according to authorities.

Officials said the people filing those claims would communicate with Reffigee over the phone or via text. She accepted bribes in return for approving many of those claims, court records show.

Members of the conspiracy submitted false and fraudulent claims in the name of unsuspecting residents, officials said. Personal information and Social Security numbers were used during the claim submission process, according to authorities.

In each instance, members of the conspiracy would report that the claimant had become unemployed due to COVID-19, court documents say.

After the claims were filed and approved, members of the conspiracy would have banks mail a debit card to an address within their control or deposit benefits directly into a bank account.

When those involved received debit cards, they would use them to make withdrawals from ATMs around Southeast Michigan, according to officials.

Reffigee is accused of using her position to re-activate claims that had been flagged for fraud within the system. She also went outside her assigned workflow to approve fraudulent claims when they were first filed, authorities said.

She re-activated or approved more than 35 fraudulent claims that paid out more than $300,000, according to court records.

Charges

Reffigee is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

“Reffigee did knowingly, intentionally, and willfully combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with multiple individuals, known and unknown to the government, to commit wire fraud,” the court document says.

She has been directed to forfeit any property obtained through the scheme, officials said.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.