Batavia woman arrested in unemployment scam

ROCHESTER — A Batavia woman is facing up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine after allegedly stealing people’s identities in order to collect COVID unemployment benefits.

Danielle R. Tooley, 36, has been charged with wire fraud and theft of government funds, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Tooley and others knowingly used other people’s personal information to apply for and collect the benefits linked to federal COVID-19 relief programs, the prosecutors said. The incidents allegedly occurred between July and Dec. 4, 2020.

The scheme came to law enforcement’s attention on Nov. 24, 2020, when Tooley was arrested by state police for criminal possession of a controlled substance during a traffic stop in Bergen. Troopers said they observed a crack pipe with white residue inside her vehicle.

A search later revealed six New York State unemployment benefit cards, prosecutors said. They had been issued to other people.

The benefit cards were turned over to U.S. Department of Labor for further investigation. A subsequent examination of bank records allegedly revealed several indicators of fraud, while video footage from ATMs allegedly confirmed Tooley had consistently withdrawn money using the cards.

Prosecutors said Tooley routinely used other people’s information in order to apply for and collect unemployment benefits in their names. The scheme allegedly cost the federal government $99,141.39.

Tooley made an initial appearance before federal Judge Mark W. Pedersen and was released on conditions.

The arrest is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor; the Department of Homeland Security; the U.S. Secret Service; the Social Security Administration; and state police.

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