Acting US Attorney Dennis R. Holmes announced that a woman from Pierre, South Dakota has been charged with wire fraud, postal fraud and money laundering by a federal grand jury.
Marietta Ravnaas, 52, was charged on August 3, 2021. She appeared before US Judge Mark A. Moreno on August 10, 2021 and pleaded not guilty to the indictment.
The maximum sentence if convicted is up to 20 years in federal prison and / or a fine of $ 500,000, three years supervised release, and up to $ 700 in the Federal Crime Victims Fund. A provision can also be ordered.
The indictment alleges that Ravnaas participated in a program that included unemployment benefits under the CARES law. In particular, other participants in the program have illegally obtained, owned, and shared the Personal Information (PII) of various individuals. The PII has been used to falsely and fraudulently claim unemployment benefits from various states. The indictment alleges that Ravnaas knowingly allowed the fraudulently received unemployment benefit payments to be transferred to her bank account and then, at the direction of other participants in the system, money was transferred. Ravnaas often transferred funds to other participants through WorldRemit, an international money transfer service. Ravnaas also kept part of the funds to use for their own ends.
The charges are just accusations and Ravnaas is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The investigations are being conducted by the Inspector General’s Social Security Agency, Inspector General’s Labor Office, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. U.S. Assistant Attorney Ann M. Hoffman is pursuing the case.
Ravnaas was released due to a pending trial. The negotiation date is October 12, 2021.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize the Department of Justice’s resources in collaboration with government agencies to step up efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The task force supports efforts to identify and prosecute the most guilty national and international criminal actors and assists authorities charged with managing fraud prevention aid programs by, among other things, expanding and integrating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques, to detect fraudulent actors and their systems; and to share and use information and intelligence gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the ministry’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about suspected COVID-19 fraud can report this by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or using the NCDF web complaint form at: https: // www .justice.gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint form.