Stevenson, Alabama, woman sentenced for COVID unemployment fraud

A Chattanooga-area woman was sentenced Wednesday to 14 months in prison for defrauding a pandemic unemployment payment program in four states, including Tennessee and Alabama, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Randa Allison, 29, lived in Stevenson and Bridgeport, Alabama, while the fraud took place, according to court documents.

She pleaded guilty in September to wire and mail fraud in an agreement that dismissed another mail fraud charge, a court docket shows.

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In addition to the prison term, Allison was ordered to pay $120,025 in restitution to state labor departments in Pennsylvania and Alabama -- approximately the amount of fraudulent payouts she was personally responsible for, the attorney's office said.

A money judgment in her case will also order her to forfeit $100,225 to the federal government -- the amount the scheme garnered for people in East Tennessee who were not eligible to receive it.

She is the second woman from Stevenson to be sentenced for the scheme, after Dana Adkins received an 18-month sentence in January. Adkins was ordered to pay around $150,000 in restitution.

Overall, the scheme caused more than $550,000 to be fraudulently distributed, the attorney's office said.

After unemployment payments were expanded during the pandemic, Allison and others submitted false applications to programs in Tennessee, Alabama, Pennsylvania and California between June 2020 and June 2021, court filings state.

Allison used other people's personal information to file the claims -- sometimes with their permission and sometimes without it, according to court documents.

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She knew some of the people did not qualify for unemployment benefits, according to an indictment, and did not work in the states where the claims were being filed.

"As if the pandemic were not traumatic enough for our communities, fraudsters like the defendant callously took advantage of the crisis to obtain a financial windfall," U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III said in a news release.

After Allison's release from prison, she is set to serve five years of supervised release.

She was first indicted in Tennessee in May 2023.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and Department of Labor as part of the Smoky Mountains Financial Crimes Task Force, the attorney's office said. A federal COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established in 2021 to fight pandemic-related fraud.

Contact Ellen Gerst at egerst@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6319.

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