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Webster City man gets 8 months in prison for unemployment fraud

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man has been sentenced to eight months in federal prison for mail fraud after pleading guilty to an unemployment insurance fraud scheme in which he illegally collected thousands of dollars in pandemic-related benefits.

Jerry Johnson, 54, of Webster City was sentenced Thursday in Sioux City’s federal court after pleading guilty in January.

Federal prosecutors said he used his credit union account to receive over $31,000 in unemployment insurance money he was not entitled to. It was paid out by the state of Washington as benefits to those unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court documents indicate Johnson received the money in the names of others in May 2020. He withdrew the benefits in cash and mailed the money to others. The scheme ended after the credit union later rejected as fraudulent a similar $20,000 payment from Massachusetts.

Johnson also was ordered to pay restitution to Washington state and must serve a two-year term of supervised release after the prison term.

His federal defender, Michael Maloney, argued for 30 days of imprisonment followed by seven months of home confinement as a punishment “sufficient to deter a 54-year-old, who has never served a day in jail, from future criminal activity.”

Johnson was released on bond and is to surrender to the Bureau of Prison on a date yet to be set.

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