Two SC women face unemployment fraud charges

Two SC women face unemployment fraud charges
A Charleston woman and a St. Matthews woman are accused of committing financial identity fraud in order to receive unemployment benefits. (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - A Charleston woman and a St. Matthews woman are accused of committing financial identity fraud in order to receive unemployment benefits.

Melissa Rufus, 39, of Charleston, was arrested on Jan. 26 by the North Charleston Police Department and has been charged with two counts of financial identity fraud, according to South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce spokesperson Heather Biance.

The investigation came after another woman was unable to file for unemployment benefits because someone had already filed under her name, Biance says.

A release from SCDEW states Rufus confessed to buying the victim’s personal information online and filing the fraudulent unemployment claim.

In a separate case, Sarah Elizabeth Gates, 23, of St. Matthews, was arrested on Jan. 8 by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and is currently facing six counts of financial identity fraud charges, Biance said.

According to a SCDEW release, Gates admitted to assisting her alleged victim in setting up an electronic deposit for her unemployment claim and later changing the bank information to Gates’s personal bank account.

“The allegations in this matter are two prime examples of identity theft fraud, which is one of the largest categories of fraud that our department deals with in our integrity investigations. Investigations of this type of theft take an extensive amount of time and collaboration between our Integrity Unit and our law enforcement partners. In this specific case, we want to thank the Calhoun County Sherriff’s Office and the North Charleston Police Department for their dedication to bringing these investigations to a close,” Executive Director Dan Ellzey said. “The pandemic and the federal programs have presented unemployment agencies around the country with fraud challenges. Our agency has implemented multiple prevention and detection measures over the past year and will continue to do so in order to protect our claimants and ensure that benefits reach the individuals and families that need financial support during this crisis.”

SCDEW partners with local law enforcement in investigating this type of case.

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