Smyrna man sentenced to five years for defrauding CARES Act funds

Scales of Justice with the word justice over it.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Rowlando Hatter Jr., 32, of Smyrna, Georgia was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for his involvement in a scheme to illegally obtain $3.3 million in COVID-related Unemployment Insurance benefits using the personal information of more than 100 victims.

In addition to the five years, Hatter was sentenced to three years of supervised release after his term in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $2,930,410.50.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones.

The charges were conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Hatter entered a plea of guilty to the charges.

The sentence was related to charges that Hatter had caused state workforce agencies in five states to pay out the fraudulently obtained benefits.

The scheme was carried out in Georgia, California, Arizona, Maryland, and Michigan.

“It is disgraceful that unscrupulous individuals used a public health emergency and global pandemic for their own financial gain,” said HSI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger. “HSI and our partners will continue to work diligently to prevent these crimes and hold the criminals accountable.”

“The defendant took advantage of a federal program designed to provide relief to those who were in need of economic assistance,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “The sentencing demonstrates our commitment to investigate and bring to justice individuals that choose to defraud others for their own financial gain.”

Hatter and co-conspirator Clyde Parker illegally obtained $3.3 million in COVID-related Unemployment Insurance benefits by using the personal information of more than 100 victims. They submitted the applications to state workforce agencies in five states and received debit cards that were used to withdraw cash. Hatter kept the proceeds after paying Parker a fee.

Parker, 32, of Troy, Michigan, had been earlier sentenced on January 20, 2023, to four years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and had been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $596,348.50.

According to the press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, describing the methods the conspirators used to carry out the fraud:

One way was the inclusion of a provision that provided temporary benefits for individuals who had exhausted their entitlement to regular Unemployment Insurance (“UI”) benefits. The Act also aided those who were ineligible for regular UI payments and were self-employed or had limited recent work history. Individuals applied for regular and pandemic-related UI benefits by submitting an online application to their state workforce agency. 

According to the public information release:

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Special assistance was provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Sacramento, California and the Georgia Department of Labor.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracia M. King and Thomas J. Krepp prosecuted the case.

This case was sponsored by the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Task Force.  The Task Force is comprised of federal and state agencies throughout Georgia that are dedicated to combat COVID-related Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud.