A Florida man has learned how to become a millionaire from unemployment benefits, a federal grand jury alleged in Baton Rouge.
Arnold H. Thomas, 47, of Fernandina Beach, Fla., used his imagination to siphon more than $1.2 million from the Louisiana Workforce Commission, according to his indictment.
Thomas faces six counts of wire fraud for allegedly using imaginary companies, actual identities stolen from unknowing victims listed as employees, and false wage-and-tax reports to steal his fortune.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Bourgeois Jr. wrote the indictment that the grand jury returned under seal in February.
Between September 2005 and May 2010, the indictment alleges, “Thomas submitted approximately 392 false applications for (unemployment insurance) benefits.
“The scheme resulted in a loss of approximately $1,254,533” to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the indictment adds.
The indictment explains that the unemployment insurance program “is administered on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor by state workforce agencies in each state.”
By law, “Employers in Louisiana are required to file quarterly wage and tax reports,” the indictment explains.
“Each quarterly wage report includes the name, Social Security number and gross wages of each employee working during the applicable time period,” the indictment notes. Unemployment benefits “are funded through a tax on wages reported to (the Louisiana Workforce Commission) by employers.”
Thomas listed some imaginary employees in his fictitious companies’ quarterly reports to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, according to the indictment. But he also used “the names and Social Security numbers of (many other) individuals without their knowledge or consent.”
Thomas then filed unemployment claims under the names of his nonexistent former employees at his fictitious firms.
And Thomas arranged for the Louisiana Workforce Commission to wire unemployment payments to fictitious former employees’ debit card accounts under his control, the indictment alleges.
Addresses for those nonexistent employees ranged from Lake Charles to Luling, the indictment shows. Other addresses were in such cities as Metairie, Harahan and Marrero.
A request for comment was left Monday with a member of the staff of Thomas’ Jacksonville, Fla., attorney, Charles L. Truncale. However, Truncale did not call back.
Florida records show state authorities accused Thomas of writing worthless checks in misdemeanor amounts eight times between 1993 and 2001. He was not convicted in any of those cases.
But records filed by Bourgeois in Baton Rouge federal court show Thomas was in custody for an unspecified reason last month at the Duval County Jail/Pretrial Detention Facility in Jacksonville.
And U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Riedlinger issued an order Aug. 15 to have Thomas transferred to Baton Rouge from the Reception and Medical Center, West Unit, of the Florida Department of Corrections in Lake Butler, Fla.
Thomas is expected to make an appearance in Baton Rouge federal court this week.
Advocate librarian and researcher Judy Jumonville contributed to this report.