Michigan UIA office

A Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency office in Lansing.

(The Center Square) – A federal grand jury convicted a former Unemployment Insurance Agency employee and three others of bilking more than $1 million from taxpayers.

Adelita Castillo Juarez, Francisca Adelita Juarez, Evelyn De-Maya Vanderbilt, and Mya Michelle Giordano were indicted for allegedly defrauding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Lost Wages Assistance programs.

“Corruption is a rot we must eliminate,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a statement. “One of my highest priorities is the investigation and prosecution of criminal conduct by public officials. We will identify and prosecute government employees that steal taxpayer dollars. And pandemic fraud, whether committed by public employees or private citizens, will remain a priority for my office.”

The 33-count indictment alleges that between May 2020 and January 2022, the four co-defendants committed wire fraud by filing fraudulent unemployment claims in Michigan and elsewhere. The claims were allegedly for claimants who were ineligible for benefits because they did not have Michigan income or reside in Michigan.

Adelita Juarez worked as a UIA Examiner and allegedly processed fraudulent claims. Her daughter, Francisca Juarez, allegedly received kickbacks from the fraudulent claims. Vanderbilt and Giordano allegedly obtained claimants' personal information, helped submit the claims, and received some of the proceeds.

“We have zero tolerance for anyone within our Agency or any outside bad actors who try to scam the system designed to help workers who have lost their jobs,” UIA Director Julia Dale said in a statement. “Our team won’t rest until those who steal from taxpayers are brought to justice.”

Adelita, Francisca Juarez, and Vanderbilt are charged with disaster fraud. Adelita Juarez is charged with federal program theft. Vanderbilt and Giordano are accused of several counts of aggravated identity theft. Vanderbilt is charged with wire fraud for allegedly defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program and a lender of $41,666.

A conviction for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, or wire fraud, in connection with a declared major disaster or national emergency is subject to a prison term of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million, among other penalties. A conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory prison term of two years, to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

The case was assigned to the United States District Judge Paul L. Maloney.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.