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3 accused of stealing nearly $900,000 in illegally obtained pandemic unemployment assistance

KIFI

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    PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (KDKA) — Three Pittsburgh residents are charged with pandemic-related fraud.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Monday that Linda Slade, Dr. Rochelle Oaks and Keith Brown are accused of conspiring to provide false information on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance applications and fraudulently submit claims on behalf of at least 90 people for more than $880,000.

Shapiro says Slade and Oaks submitted applications, and Brown collected fees from the participants to pay Oaks.

“These defendants took advantage of a program meant for everyday people whose lives were uprooted by COVID-19 to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from all of us,” said Attorney General Shapiro said in a release. “We are working overtime to track down people who undermine the public by breaking the law and committing fraud.”

According to a release from Shapiro’s office, Slade and Oaks worked together but had separate lists of contacts for who they filed.

Slade is accused of preparing 61 applications, totaling $925,273 in PUA funds. Oaks is accused of preparing 31 applications, totaling $249,227 in PUA funds.

“Out of these 92 total applications, investigators have determined that 65 of the stated recipients are ineligible to have received benefits. The total amount of benefits paid out on these 65 ineligible applications is $884,715,” the release said.

Shapiro’s office says Oaks told investigators that she would meet with Brown to collect payment for submitting these applications.

According to the criminal complaint, the attorney general’s office received an anonymous email last July about Slade bragging about making no less than $50,000 in untaxed cash payments as a result of helping people file their claims and then withholding login credentials.

Slade, Oaks and Brown are each charged with two counts of corrupt organizations, one count of theft by deception, one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of criminal conspiracy and one count of tampering with records.

KDKA’s Jennifer Borrasso went to the homes of all the accused to get their side of the story. When KDKA arrived at Slade’s home, a man started yelling.

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