A Far Rockaway man is facing multiple charges for allegedly filing phony unemployment claims to collect COVID relief funds, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Keijohn Graham, 21, was indicted by a grand jury and arraigned before Queens Supreme Court Justice Toni Cimino on Thursday, Sept. 9 on a 68-count indictment charging him with second-degree grand larceny, first-degree identity theft, falsifying business records, criminal possession of public benefit cards, criminal possession of stolen property and offering a false instrument for filing.
Graham allegedly filed unemployment claims under 13 different names to collect more than $150,000 in benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PAU) program authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“This worldwide health pandemic has been devastating and led to millions of Americans losing their jobs. As part of the CARES Act, Congress expanded who could receive much-needed unemployment benefits and authorized additional money to help those affected,” Katz said.
Katz added that Graham saw the additional support for people as an “opportunity to fill his own pockets.”
“This fraud during the pandemic costs our country, and our state, billions of dollars. We will not stand for this in Queens County,” Katz said. “My office will continue to diligently investigate these types of crimes and bring those responsible to justice.”
According to the charges, Graham was arrested on March 23 after law enforcement executed a court-authorized search warrant and seized numerous documents and credit cards, including 13 New York State Department of Labor benefit debit cards allegedly from Graham’s home.
“We have zero tolerance for thieves, and if you break the law, you will be held responsible,” NYS Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “Stealing from a system that is providing a lifeline to New Yorkers in need is unconscionable and doing it during a public health crisis is unforgivable. I commend our partners in the Queens District Attorney’s office and at all levels of law enforcement for their commitment to fighting Unemployment Insurance fraud and bringing this criminal to justice.”
Justice Cimino ordered Graham to return to court on Nov. 30. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.