A 30-year-old Tampa man was sentenced to five years and one month in state prison on Aug. 1 for creating fraudulent credit cards using the names of victims and receiving $86,804 in unemployment benefits that they should not have received.
US District Judge Steven Merryday also ordered the man, Devaris McClain, to pay $92,346.54 in restitution to the US Department of Labor and several banks.
McClain pleaded guilty in January.
The crimes McClain admitted to committed date back to January 2015, according to a plea agreement filed in court papers in January.
That’s when McClain and his unnamed accomplices began creating false accounts, according to the petition.
What they would do is buy payment cards and print the credit and debit card numbers, as well as the names of the victims, on the front of the cards. Because these weren’t real credit cards, they could scratch or change the color of the magnet on the back. When the teller swiped the card, the line was unusable, forcing the teller to manually punch in the account number on the front of the card.
They used the fraudulent cards to make purchases, including gift cards, at retail stores and then sold the purchases for cash, which the attackers distributed.
On Aug. 20, 2016, McClain attempted to spend $1,015.86 at a Walmart store in Brandon using modified credit cards, authorities said. Together, they tried to use 6 different cards that had someone’s name and account number on the front. The plea agreement does not say whether he ultimately did well or whether the incident led him to authorities.
As for the unemployment insurance fraud, the plea agreement alleges that McClain filed a fraudulent claim in California using the name, date of birth and Social Security number of a person identified in court papers as JO.
The claims were made online during the pandemic, and the shipping address used was on Deleuil Avenue in Tampa. When the notice arrived, the financial institution sent the last credit card in 6258 to the Tampa address. About $13,862 was placed on the card in JO’s name, according to the petition.
McClain used the card to withdraw money from ATMs, including on July 6, 2020, when he made two $1,000 withdrawals from a machine at 11613 N. Nebraska Ave.
That’s when the police contacted JO and learned that he didn’t know the unemployment claim was made in his name and didn’t know who McClain was.
McClain was charged on Aug. 4, 2021, and was arrested on Aug. 13, 2021, according to court records.
The case shows that between Aug. 24, 2020, and Aug. 26, 2020, McClain used the credit of another person, identified as TM, to withdraw $3,000.
In all, the plaintiffs say they were able to receive more than $86,804 in insurance payments, but court papers do not say how many victims. Court documents also do not make clear why it took nearly seven months to reach a verdict after pleading guilty.
McClain was caught, in part, thanks to the efforts of an investigative team made up of local and state law enforcement agencies led locally by the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The group was created as part of a national effort to combat COVID aid and fraud related to the pandemic that took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Main Street Lending Program and Unemployment Insurance.
The office has, so far, prosecuted 34 people who allegedly defrauded the government of about $51 million.