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East St. Louis woman accused of conspiring to steal pandemic unemployment benefits
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East St. Louis

East St. Louis woman accused of conspiring to steal pandemic unemployment benefits

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EAST ST. LOUIS — An East St. Louis resident has been federally indicted after she and others allegedly launched a multi-state scheme to steal unemployment benefits.

Talfanita M. Cobb was indicted June 22 on seven charges — three counts of mail fraud, one count conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

Steven Weinhoeft, U.S. attorney for Illinois’ Southern District, alleges that the crimes occurred Sept. 15 through Jan. 29.

Cobb and others were attempting to game the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation system that gave significant boosts in benefits for those who lost work because of COVID-19, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges Cobb and others fraudulently applied for FPUC aid in three states.

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“It was the object of the conspiracy and scheme to defraud that Cobb and her co-conspirators would receive more than $800,000 from the Arizona DES, more than $45,000 from the Ohio (Department of Jobs and Family Services), and more than $5,000 from the Texas workforce commission, in unemployment benefits, including FPUC payments, using stolen identities,” the indictment says.

The indictment goes on to say Cobb’s alleged co-conspirators used her N. 74th Street East St. Louis address when filing for aid. It said Cobb and others allegedly applied to receive the unemployment payments on prepaid debit cards that would then be cashed out.

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“It was further part of the conspiracy and scheme to defraud that Cobb went to automated teller machines located in the Belleville, Fairview Heights, and O'Fallon in Illinois, as well as ATMs located in St. Louis, Missouri, and withdrew funds from fraudulently obtained unemployment debit cards,” Cobbs' indictment says.

Court documents also alleges that Cobb “transferred a significant portion of the fraudulently obtained unemployment benefit funds to her co-conspirators using Bitcoin exchanges.”

Cobb is expected to appear at a 9 a.m. Aug. 24 pretrial conference ahead of the 9 a.m. Aug. 31 jury trial.

In an unfortunate event your identity was stolen, here are nine tips to help you recover your identity, according to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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