Detroit woman with Mich. Unemployment Agency charged with stealing $2M, says US attorney

A 39-year-old state contractor is charged with scamming Michigan's Unemployment Agency from the inside with money that should have gone to unemployed workers affected by the pandemic.

Detroit woman Brandi Hawkins could face 20 years behind bars for allegedly stealing more than $2 million from the agency while the state scrambled to pay benefits during the pandemic.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider who represents the eastern district of Michigan spoke to FOX 2 about the charges.

"The allegations are essentially that she was entrusted as an employee of the state of Michigan," he said. "Someone who was entrusted with the state's money. Instead of making sure that, the money went into the hands of those who really needed it, people who were suffering from unemployment, and were eligible for money to get by, that money was diverted. Instead it went into the hands of people who really didn't need it, and that is what we are tracking down right now."

FOX 2: "Not just people who didn't need it, but it also sounds like (the money went into) her hands as well."

"That is what it looks like to us, the investigation is ongoing," Schneider said. "It looks like a large amount of money, over $2 million in a very short amount of time."

RELATED: Michigan Congresswomen pushing to extend federal unemployment benefits amid COVID-19

Hawkins worked for the unemployment agency and was a contractor who had access to the money.

RELATED: Michigan unemployment site buckles under surge of claims from pandemic

"You have to trust somebody to give them access to the people's money, the taxpayers' money," Schneider said. "When somebody abuses that trust for something improper, it is immoral issue and it is a criminal issue. That is why we are very thankful our state, local and federal partners are all working together to track these cases."