DETROIT (AP) — A contract employee for the state of Michigan has been charged in a scheme that saw the fraudulent disbursement of more than $2 million in unemployment insurance funding intended to help people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brandi Hawkins, 39, of Detroit, worked in the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency with duties that included reviewing, processing and verifying the legitimacy of unemployment insurance claims for the state, according to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider’s office.
Starting in April, insider access was used to release federal and state funds on hundreds of fraudulent claims, his office said.
A search of Hawkins’ home later turned up more than $200,000 in cash. Authorities said some of the money was used to buy high-end handbags and other luxury items.
“Brandi Hawkins is charged with exploiting the current pandemic to defraud the state of Michigan and United States for her own personal gain,” Schneider said in a statement.
Hawkins was charged in a criminal complaint. The case remains under investigation. When completed, a determination will be made on whether a felony indictment will be sought, Schneider’s office noted.
The Associated Press was unable Friday evening to find a telephone number for Hawkins or determine if she has an attorney.