Sentencing has been moved for a Petal woman who recently pleaded guilty to theft of government funds involving unemployment insurance benefits fraud with the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill issued in response to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sixty-four-year-old Delma Ruth High, who faces up to 10 years in prison, is now scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 30 in the William M. Colmer Federal Building in downtown Hattiesburg. U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett will preside over the sentencing.
High pleaded guilty to the offense on June 3 and was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 6. No immediate reason was given for the change in date.
In May 2020, a local bank alerted the U.S. Secret Service Jackson Resident Office that unemployment insurance benefits from the states of Washington and Arizona had been deposited into High’s account. This information was provided in relation to High’s actions in the days leading up to her account being closed for fraudulent activity.
“An investigation into these benefits revealed that they were deposited into High’s account under other individuals’ names,” read a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Mississippi. “The unemployment insurance benefits were federally subsidized through the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service.
“This case is being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force,” the statement reads. “Members of the NUIFTF are working with state workforce agencies, financial institutions, and other law enforcement partners across the country to fight (unemployment insurance) fraud, and consumers should be vigilant in light of these threats and take the appropriate steps to safeguard themselves.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act is the authorization that expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by COVID-19, including for workers who are not ordinarily eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.