Mississippi woman found guilty of conspiring to get federal benefits while in jail

Published 6:04 am Friday, March 3, 2023

A federal jury has convicted a Mississippi woman on one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiring to commit theft of public money, one count of theft of public money, and one count of making a false statement to a federal agent.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Laketia Andrews Crossley, 51, of McComb, conspired with Sedrick Pittman, Marcus Parer, Austin Bahm and Calveshar Isaac to receive federal unemployment insurance benefits.

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittman, Parker, Bahm and Isaac were inmates housed at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

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They fraudulently applied for federal unemployment insurance benefits by stating that they were able and available to immediately accept employment.

Due to the overwhelming number of applications for unemployment insurance, these applications were not immediately detected and benefits were approved for the group of prison inmates.

Benefits were sent by mail on debit cards to Crossley, who then converted the funds that were transmitted to Pittman — with whom she had a long-term romantic relationship — via cell phone.

When questioned about her actions by special agents of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Crossley made false statements. It is unlawful to fraudulently apply for or receive federal unemployment insurance benefits, or to make false statements to a federal agent.

Although her co-conspirators all pleaded guilty to various charges, Crossley asserted her right to a jury trial. After the three-day trial at the federal courthouse in Natchez, a jury found her guilty of all charges.

Crossley is scheduled to be sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge David Bramlette III at the federal courthouse in Natchez on June 1, 2023.