Guilty plea expected in pandemic benefits theft case

Apr. 3—A 54-year-old Kunia woman is expected to plead guilty today to federal charges that from a pandemic unemployment insurance program using other people's identities.

A 54-year-old Kunia woman is expected to plead guilty today to federal charges that from a pandemic unemployment insurance program using other people's identities.

Oseola Vakameilalo, aka "Ose, " was arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Sept. 5 after a federal grand jury returned a 12-count indictment Aug. 24 charging her with taking the money by assuming the identities of people who needed the help.

Vakameilalo originally pleaded not guilty to the accusations. Her trial was set for Jun. 4 before Senior District Judge Susan Oki Mollway. She remains free on an unsecured $25, 000 bond.

Vakameilalo is charged with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud Hawaii residents of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments they were eligible to receive.

She is facing 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Each of the wire fraud counts carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Each of the aggravated identity theft counts carries a sentence of two years in prison.

In 2020 the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act created the PUA program to provide emergency unemployment payments to workers whose livelihoods were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but who were ineligible for traditional state unemployment insurance benefits.

Vakameilalo offered to help people file claims for PUA benefit payments.

She allegedly charged the victims between $500 and $1, 500 for her services, according to the indictment.

She created profiles for two people on the Hawaii Department of Industrial and Labor Relations website using their personal information, including Social Security number, date of birth and their bank account information to receive direct deposits of benefit payments.

For each person she helped, Vakameilalo allegedly logged on to the Hawaii DLIR website with the username and password she had created for them and submitted weekly certifications that they were still eligible for the money.

After the claimants got a certain number of payments, Vakameilalo allegedly used their log-in credentials to access the claimant's DLIR account without them knowing.

She then allegedly swapped her bank account information in for the two bank accounts she set up to get the payments.

Her account would receive $563 at a time, according to federal court records.

Vakameilalo allegedly continued to use the claimant's credentials regularly to log on to the claimant's Hawaii DLIR account to submit the certifications needed to keep the money coming.

Vakameilalo's case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and the FBI.

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Paris Yates.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or online at.