A Detroit man has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison on charges of conspiring to defraud multiple government agencies out of more than $2.2 million in COVID-19 pandemic assistance funds and also defrauding the United States Postal Service or more than $200,000.
Chaz Duane Shields, 35, was sentenced Thursday (Feb. 9) afternoon and was ordered to pay over $2 million in restitution to Michigan, California, Nevada, Louisana, the Small Business Administration, and the USPS.
Court documents indicated that as early as May 2020 through July 2021, Shields and his co-conspirators agreed to submit more than 240 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims to over 20 states to obtain more than $2.2 million in unemployment insurance benefits.
“Chaz Shields and his co-conspirators submitted more than 240 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims to multiple state workforce agencies, resulting in the payment of more than $2.2 million in fraudulent benefits,” said Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Great Lakes Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. “Their scheme diverted money away from American workers in need of relief from the financial effects of unemployment. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to safeguard the unemployment insurance system from those who exploit these benefit programs.”
The 35-year-old also successfully obtained a fraudulent $20,833 PPP loan.
“We remain committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute thefts from a multitude of federal programs, especially those aimed at pandemic relief,” said United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison. “Individuals who steal money from the government should know that they will be held accountable. Today’s sentence sends a strong message that financial crime does not pay.”
Shields also defrauded the USPS of over $200,000 as he conspired to submit more than 1,000 fraudulent domestic indemnity insurance claims in the names of more than 40 individuals to the postal service.
He and others involved used USPS self-service kiosks to mail out various packages. Each package was filed as fraudulent domestic indemnity insurance claims by attesting that the package contained an item of significant value when in reality, they contained empty plastic picture frames with little to no value.
“Shields and his co-conspirators submitted fraudulent unemployment insurance claims that siphoned off more than $2 million intended to assist individuals who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “The FBI remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to identify fraudsters like this defendant and hold them fully accountable for their crimes.”
Since 2016, Shields has accumulated six separate state fraud convictions, with five being in Michigan and one in Maryland.
Co-conspirators Cortney Shaquan Shields, 31, and Daeshawn Tamar Posey, 27, who are both from Detroit, were sentenced to 41 months and 63 months in prison in connection with the case.
Co-conspirator Brittany Levett Witherspoon, 26, from Warren, will be sentenced on May 1 as she pleads guilty.