Denny Ray Hughes of Wilton Manors, Florida was arrested this past week after he was accused of stealing identities in a scheme to defraud unemployment services, news sources report. Hughes, 40, was booked into the Broward County Main Jail on charges of identity theft, wire fraud, and defrauding the State of Florida out of approximately $206,000. It is unclear whether qualified for bail bond. Reports did not specify if Hughes has hired a lawyer.
According to reports, Hughes created a sham business called Mortgage Relief America, LLC to orchestrate his scheme. Hughes allegedly used fraudulently obtained names, birth dates, and social security numbers to make it appear as though nearly two dozen people worked at his bogus company, when in fact they did not. From January 2011 to April 2012, Hughes reportedly listed the fake employees as having been laid off from his company and used their information to file of unemployment benefits. Reports say he filed the claims via telephone and over the Internet once or twice a week. Unemployment sent the benefits to one of Hughes’ bank accounts for several months. In all, detectives say Hughes collected around $206,000 in unemployment compensation from the government.
It is unclear how detectives became aware of the alleged fraud. So far, Hughes has remained silent about the charges against him. If a jury finds him guilty, Hughes could face nearly 20 years behind bars and a fine up to $250,000.
While fraudsters work around the system, other thieves are more direct. Patrick James Gelardi of Delray Beach was arrested Saturday after he was accused of stealing a cell phone from an AT&T store, reports say. Gelardi, 25, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on two counts of theft. His bail was set at $6,000. It is unclear whether he has hired legal representation.
The incident occurred on Saturday when Gelardi paid a visit to an AT&T store on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach. A police report says Gelardi entered the store with a pair of wire cutters and the intent of stealing one of the shop’s display phones. Gelardi allegedly used the cutters to cut a Nokia Lumia phone free from its display. However, unbeknownst to Gelardi, store manager Ciandra Arnold witnessed the theft.
Arnold followed Gelardi as he left the store. It did not take long before Gelardi realized he was being followed. In an attempt to escape Arnold, Gelardi sprinted around a corner, lost his footing, and collided face-first with a pole, sources say. Arnold turned the corner and found Gelardi lying on the ground, his hands clutched to his face, and the wire cutters and stolen phone at his side. A report says Gelardi lost a number of teeth in the mishap.
Before police arrived, Gelardi climbed back up on his feet and fled the scene once more. According to reports, Gelardi sought treatment for his wounded face at the Bethesda Memorial Hospital. Police, perhaps tipped off by physicians, arrived at the hospital and placed Gelardi under arrest. In a statement made to police, Gelardi reportedly said he stole the phone because his phone had fallen into the toilet.