Former Arizona man pleads guilty to fraud, aggravated identify theft in federal court

Sep 2, 2023, 8:00 PM

Arizona man pleads guilty to aggravated identity theft, fraud...

(Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A former Arizona man pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identify theft in federal court on Tuesday, authorities said.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine said 55-year-old James McAuliffe took advantage of unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court records claim McAuliffe filed fraudulent applications for benefits with the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.

However, he didn’t use his own information — he stole other people’s data without their knowledge or consent, prosecutors said.

How did he commit the (alleged) aggravated identify theft?

McAuliffe allegedly applied for replacement drivers licenses in other people’s names. He then changed their mailing addresses and used those falsified licenses as proof of identification when filing fraudulent unemployment claims, authorities said.

“McAuliffe had the UI benefits loaded onto debit cards and wired into an account he opened in another person’s name and withdrew the funds at ATMs in Arizona,” prosecutors said.

When authorities arrested him, McAuliffe was living in Kansas, authorities said.

McAuliffe faces a maximum sentence of 20 years — along with a fine of $250,000,  the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine said.

On the other hand, he could serve the mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for his crimes, authorities said.

“McAuliffe stole benefits set aside by the federal government to assist American workers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Special Agent-in-Charge Jonathan Mellone said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to safeguard Department of Labor programs from those who seek to exploit them.”

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Former Arizona man pleads guilty to fraud, aggravated identify theft in federal court