Saratoga Springs man charged with COVID-19 relief unemployment insurance fraud

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Markhwan Berning, 36, of Saratoga Springs, was arraigned Dec. 18 on an indictment charging him with false representation of a social security number.

According to the indictment, between May and July 2020, Berning obtained unemployment insurance benefits, including newly created federal pandemic-related benefits, by using a fake social security number as his own.

If convicted, Berning faces a maximum of five years in prison, a term of supervised release of up to three years, and a maximum $250,000 fine. 

Berning appeared on Dec. 18 before United States Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel and was released with conditions. 

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27. The Act created, among other unemployment insurance benefits, a new temporary federal program called the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC) that provided an additional $600 weekly benefit to those eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits.

This case is being investigated as part of the Department of Justice’s COVID Fraud Task Force. To learn more about the Department’s efforts to stop illegal COVID-19-related activity, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.  The public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline by phone at (1-866-720-5721) or via an online reporting form available at: www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disastercomplaint-form.

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