R.I. man pleads guilty in multistate COVID-relief fraud scheme

PROVIDENCE – A Rhode Island man on Monday pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent applications for COVID-19 unemployment relief funds in at least eight states, said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

Courtney Hilaire, 29, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess more than 15 unauthorized access devices and possession of device-making equipment.

Hilaire admitted that, beginning around March 1, 2020, he and others filed fraudulent claims seeking funds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The program was created to assist individuals who were unemployed due to the pandemic.

Hilaire said he and others used stolen Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal identifying information when filing electronic applications for pandemic relief funds from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Florida, Nevada and Tennessee.

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Hilaire and others were arrested in July 2020 by Warwick Police when they were found sleeping inside a stolen car parked in a hotel parking lot.

Hilaire is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith on March 30.