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Southwest Virginia man sentenced in unemployment fraud scheme

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ABINGDON, Va. — A Pound, Virginia, man, who admitted to conspiring with others to defraud the government of nearly $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits, was sentenced Thursday to more than eight years in prison, prosecutors said.

Jeffrey R. Tackett, 30, and his co-conspirators concocted a scheme to gather personal identification information and then submit unemployment claims to the Virginia Employment Commission website, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. The claims were for individuals who were known to be ineligible to receive benefits, including various inmates in Virginia Department of Corrections’ facilities.

Conspiracy members, including Tackett, lied on the VEC forms as part of the scheme to make filers appear eligible for benefits, the release states. Because pandemic unemployment benefits were paid weekly, each of the filings reverified and recertified the false statements on a number of occasions throughout the scheme.

Tackett conspired with others, including his brother, Gregory Tackett, and his girlfriend, Leelyn Danielle Chykta, to collect personal identification information of more than 35 other co-conspirators, including 15 inmates, and then filed false claims.

Chytka and Gregory Tackett were each sentenced last summer to eight-and-a-half months in prison for their roles in the conspiracy.

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