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Seattle-area pair indicted for defrauding COVID-19 benefit programs

Amount exceeds $1 million; including $500,000 from state Employment Security Department

A Seattle-area pair was indicted Wednesday, Nov. 10 in the Western District of Washington, for more than $1 million in fraud on COVID-19 relief programs.

Bryan Alan Sparks, 40, and Autumn Gail Luna, 22, are charged in a 16-count indictment with allegedly defrauding Washington State Employment Security Department of more than $500,000 in benefits and defrauding the U.S. Small Business Administration of approximately $520,000, according to an U.S. Department of Justice news release. The two are currently in federal custody in Washington, D.C. after being arrested at Union Station with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

According to the indictment, from March 2020 until at least January 2021, the two used stolen personal information of more than 50 Washington residents to apply for unemployment benefits.

The pair had benefits loaded onto debit cards and mailed to a variety of addresses in the Seattle area, including Federal Way, Auburn, Des Moines and Lynnwood, where they or their co-conspirators could retrieve them.

They also opened fraudulent bank accounts and had benefits paid directly to those accounts, according to the news release. They also used many of those same stolen identities to apply for loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Small Business Administration paid approximately $520,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loan proceeds to the pair. The total unemployment benefits the two fraudulently obtained is more than $500,000.

In furtherance of their scheme, Sparks and Luna used the stolen personal information to create counterfeit driver’s licenses and obtain fraudulent driver’s licenses from the Washington State Department of Licensing. They maintained over a dozen phone numbers on as many cellphones, each of which were labeled with the phone number and names of stolen identities. The defendants also maintained detailed ledgers and electronic files of stolen personal information, credit card numbers, and financial transactions associated with each stolen identity.

The pair are charged with conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft.

Conspiracy is punishable by five years in prison. Wire fraud and mail fraud that relate to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, according to the news release. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory minimum two years in prison to run consecutive to any other sentence imposed in the case.


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