Eight Philadelphia Police Department Employees Indicted on ft and Fraud Charges

Police in riot gear face protesters marching through West Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2020. (Gabriella Audi/AFP via Getty Images)

A total of eight employees of the Philadelphia Police Department have been caught double-dipping: receiving unemployment benefits while still working and receiving paychecks from the department.

United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement Tuesday that the eight employees were charged with fraudulently obtaining emergency unemployment benefits related to COVID-19, resulting in each facing one count of mail or wire fraud and one count of theft of government funds.

Charged are Shannon Reynolds, 25, of Philadelphia; Najah Harrell, 32, of Philadelphia; Korey Kinard, 29, of Philadelphia; Keely Maude, 23, of Philadelphia; Tashika White, 50, of Cheltenham, Pennsylvania; Paulette Johnson, 55, of Philadelphia; Monica Pelzer, 45, of Philadelphia; and Yarelis Feliciano, age 28, Philadelphia.

Johnson is a clerk for the Department, the seven others are police radio dispatchers.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law in March 2020. It created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides unemployment benefits to those not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended unemployment benefits, including individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be eligible for weekly benefits, applicants’ unemployment must be related to the pandemic, and the applicant must be willing and able to work each day and, if offered a job, be able to accept it.

Once an applicant is approved to receive benefits, they must submit weekly certifications indicating they are seeking full-time employment; did not refuse any job offers or referrals; and had reported any employment during the week and the gross pay or other payments received.

se cases were investigated by the FBI, U.S. Department of Labor—Office of Inspector General, City of Philadelphia Office of Inspector General, and the Philadelphia Police Department with assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Industry and Labor.

Each of the defendants is alleged to have submitted weekly certifications saying they were not employed and they either were not earning any wages or they grossly unreported true wages.

se statements were false because each defendant was employed at the time by Philadelphia Police Department, according to payroll records.

Each defendant received CARES Act unemployment funds for multiple weeks in which he or she also collected his or her police department salary.

“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds are intended to help Americans who are not working or who have experienced dramatically reduced working hours due to the pandemic, not people who are already gainfully employed,” said Williams said in a statement. “Thieves who attempt to take these funds are taking advantage of others’ misfortune—ripping them off while also ripping off all taxpayers who fund the program. As alleged, these eight defendants fraudulently obtained funds that could have helped struggling individuals.”

se cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Lanni.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report them by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

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