Charleston woman arrested for unemployment insurance fraud

Charleston County News

Michelle Rufus (Charleston County Detention Center booking photo)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Authorities say two women, including a Charleston County resident, were arrested for committing financial identity fraud in order to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Melissa Rufus, 39, was arrested by the North Charleston Police Department on January 26th after a victim said that someone used her identity to file for unemployment benefits.

Officials with the SC Department of Employment and Workforce say the victim told investigators that she realized her identity had been compromised when she became unemployed and was unable to file for unemployment insurance benefits because someone had already done so using her name and information.

Rufus confessed to buying the victim’s personal information online and using it to file a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits.

She has been charged with two counts of financial identity fraud. Jail records she Rufus was arrested for financial identity fraud one other time in 2016.

In the other case, a 23-year-old St. Matthews woman, Sarah Elizabeth Gates, is facing six counts of financial identity fraud charges.

Officials say she hijacked a victim’s unemployment insurance claim by first offering assistance to the victim, who was a friend.

Through an investigation, Gates later admitted to assisting the victim in setting up an electronic deposit for her unemployment insurance claim and then later changing the bank account information to her own personal bank account.

She was arrested last month by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The alleged criminal activity is believed to have taken place between May and June of 2020.

“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,” said Executive Director Dan Ellzey.

He went on to say, “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.”

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you are asked to file a police report with your local
authorities and submitting a “Report ID Theft” fraud form to the Department of Employment and

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