Detroit man pleads guilty in $2M multi-state unemployment fraud scheme

A person fills out an unemployment benefits application.

A Detroit man pleaded guilty Wednesday for his role in a ploy to scam unemployment agencies out of more than $2 million.

Chaz Duane Shields, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud.

According to court records, from as early as May 2020 through at least July 2021, Shields and others agreed to commit wire fraud by submitting more than 240 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims to more than 20 states and territories, fraudulently obtaining more than $2,200,000 in benefits. 

Authorities said Shields also obtained a fraudulent $20,833.00 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. The Department of Justice said Shields also admitted to defrauding the U.S. Postal Service of more than $200,000 through a scheme in which he conspired to submit more than 1,000 fraudulent insurance claims, in the names of more than 40 people.

To do this, the DOJ said Shields and others used USPS Self-Service Kiosks to mail a number of packages. For each of the packages, the conspirators subsequently filed and received a fraudulent insurance claim by attesting that the package contained an item of significant value. However, the packages typically contained empty plastic picture frames with little to no value.

Shields faces up to twenty years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and restitution.

Cortney Saquan Shields, 33, of Detroit and Daeshawn Tamar Posey, 26, of Detroit have previously pleaded guilty connected to the case. Brittany Levett Witherspoon, 26, of Warren has also been charged in connection to the investigation.