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Women accused of ID fraud; suspects allegedly stole unemployment insurance payments
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Women accused of ID fraud; suspects allegedly stole unemployment insurance payments

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SCDEW

A 23-year-old St. Matthews woman is accused of routing a friend’s unemployment insurance money to her own bank account, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

Sarah Elizabeth Gates is currently facing six counts of financial identity fraud charge. She was taken into custody by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 8.

Gates helped her friend set up an electronic deposit for her unemployment claim, according to SCDEW.

Gates later allegedly changed her friend’s bank account information to her own personal bank account between May and June of 2020.

In a separate case, 39-year-old Melissa Rufus, of Charleston, has been charged with two counts of financial identity fraud. She was taken into custody by the North Charleston Police Department on Jan. 26.

The investigation began when a person reported that someone had used her identity to file for unemployment benefits.

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She realized her identity was compromised when she became unemployed and was unable to file for unemployment insurance benefits because someone had already done so using her name and information.

In a sworn statement to police after her arrest, Rufus allegedly confessed to buying the person’s personal information online and using it to file a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits.

These cases were investigated by local law enforcement in close partnership with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce’s Integrity Unit and Office of General Counsel.

SCDEW Executive Director Dan Ellzey thanked the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and the North Charleston Police Department for their work.

“The pandemic and the federal programs have presented unemployment agencies around the country with fraud challenges,” Ellzey said. “Our agency has implemented multiple prevention and detection measures over the past year and will continue to do so in order to protect our claimants and ensure that benefits reach the individuals and families that need financial support during this crisis.”

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