Man pleads guilty to pandemic relief fraud

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane) (Jenny Kane, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A Rhode Island man has pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy to file fraudulent applications for COVID-19 unemployment relief funds in multiple states using stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information, federal prosecutors said.

Courtney Hilaire, 29, pleaded guilty Monday to multiple counts of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, possession of device making equipment and other offenses, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Providence.

Hilaire and others used stolen Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other personal identifying information when filing fraudulent applications for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee, authorities said.

The program was created to assist people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Hilaire was arrested in July 2020 when he and others were found sleeping in a stolen car parked in the parking lot of a Warwick hotel, authorities said. Police also found 33 counterfeit credit cards, fraudulent drivers’ licenses, equipment used to read and transfer information onto credit card magnetic strips, the identifying information of others, and $13,000 in cash in the car, prosecutors said.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 30.