The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has announced charges against a Malden man accused of filing fraudulent applications for coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic unemployment benefits.
Wagner Sozi, 32, was charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of making a false claim to the United States. It is unclear if he has acquired legal representation.
According to the charging documents, Sozi allegedly used stolen identities to open bank accounts, rent vehicles, make purchases, and apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.
PUA is a federal assistance program that provides unemployment benefits to Americans who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It operates under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed by Congress in March 2020.
Sozi allegedly obtained the stolen identities from multiple sources, including a Cambridge realty company that collected the personal identifying information of people interested in renting local properties. Sozi reportedly lived with an individual who had worked for the realty company, which is how he is supposedly obtained the stolen identity information. Investigators have tied several of the identity theft victims to clients of the realty company, sources indicate.
Sozi and an unnamed female accomplice allegedly used the identities to open lines of credit at an office supply retailer. They purportedly used those accounts to fraudulently buy Visa gift cards, costing the retail chain more than $100,000.
“Sozi allegedly used another stolen identity to purchase a Rolex for more than $15,000,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “It is further alleged that he also possessed a Maine driver’s license, bearing his photograph and the name of an identity theft victim, which was used to open a bank account and to make large purchases at an Apple Store.”
After his arrest in June 2020, investigators reportedly seized documents belonging to the realty company in Sozi’s apartment, as well as a PUA debit card in another person’s name. An investigation into the origin of the PUA card revealed that the claim associated with it listed Sozi’s address as the mailing address, but it had another person’s name and information. Investigators also discovered that another PUA claim had been submitted under Sozi’s name, but with another individual’s Social Security number.
If convicted, Sozi faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the wire fraud charge. He faces an additional mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison and another fine of $250000 for the identity theft charge. The false claim charge has a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of up $250,000. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that Sozi is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Fraud is a serious offense with severe penalties. Anyone accused of committing fraud should immediately consult an experienced defense attorney who can review the evidence and decide the best course of action to minimize the penalties or have the charges dropped.
South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney
If you are involved in a bank fraud case, then you should hire an attorney. Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of South Florida’s most experienced fraud defense attorneys.