Michigan brother and sister charged with $3.5M unemployment fraud

Two Detroit-area siblings are part of a group of suspects that have been charged in a multi-million fraud scheme that totaled more than $3.5 million across nine states plus the U.S. territory of Guam.

Kenny Lee Howard III, 30, Keila Lanae Howard, 34, David Christopher Davis, 25, and Stevenvan Eugene Ware, 30 were all charged with in federal court for their alleged role in the scheme to take unemployment funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced the charges. The Howards, both from Metro Detroit, and the two other defendants filed over 700 cases of unemployment insurance claims across Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California, New York, Kansas, Maryland, Tennessee, Hawaii, and Guam. 

The four suspects are alleged to have used other people's names plus their own in some cases to file claims for pandemic unemployment assistance. In total, they fraudulently obtained over $3.5 million in government funds 

"This alleged scheme diverted money away from American workers in need of financial relief during the COVID-19 pandemic," said U.S. Attorney Ison. "My office is committed to prosecuting anyone who exploited our national crisis to enrich themselves, and today’s charges are a reflection of that commitment."

Kenny Howard was detained when landing at Detroit Metro Airport on June 13, 2022, with $4,000 in cash. He had three cell phones at the time, all were searched and evidence showed various types of fraud including pandemic unemployment fraud and identity theft, authorities said.

Officials investigated and found five different claims matching his identity in three states, including an address in Southfield, one in Pennsylvania, and two in California. They all were linked back to an IP address at a home in Southfield listed as hi home address.

Authorities kept digging and found 159 additional claims in seven different states: 31 in Arizona, 85 in California, one in Guam, 17 in Michigan, 7 in New York, 19 in Pennsylvania, and 1 in Tennessee. Of those, 79 of them utilized the number sequence "1226" in the email address on the claims and many of the claims were made with victim's real names and information.

Keila Howard, Davis, and Ware were also part of the plot, which authorities said they actually trained each other how to properly fill out the applications and share them with each other. 

All four are now facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and identity theft.