Newfoundland Man Charged with Wire Fraud in Alleged Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Scam

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SCRANTON, PA — In an unfolding case of alleged fraud stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, a 69-year-old Newfoundland man, Robert M. Reynolds, has been charged with wire fraud, as announced by United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam of the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

The charge stems from allegations that from May 2020 to August 2021, Reynolds aided and abetted another individual in submitting a fraudulent application and weekly certifications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Reynolds is alleged to have falsely claimed to be unemployed due to the pandemic, reported earnings for each quarter of 2019, and indicated he was available to accept employment if offered a job — despite being a retiree. As a result of this alleged scheme, Reynolds is accused of unlawfully obtaining approximately $36,000 in PUA benefits.

The PUA program, created in March 2020 as part of the United States government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the CARES Act, aimed to provide unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

This case comes on the heels of related charges unsealed in May 2023 against Christopher J. Miller, also formerly of Newfoundland, Pennsylvania. Miller was charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements, identity theft, and unlawful monetary transactions for allegedly obtaining over $1.5 million in pandemic stimulus funds for himself and others. Miller has since been arrested, detained, and pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.

The case against Reynolds is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo, with the investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General.

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If found guilty, Reynolds could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. The imposition of a sentence would follow consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines by a judge.

As with all criminal cases, it is crucial to remember that charges are simply allegations. Reynolds, like all defendants, is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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