Denny Ray Hughes, 40, has agreed to plead guilty to stealing the identities of two dozen people in order to illegally collect unemployment insurance. Hughes, who was arrested in March, had been charged with nine counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft. He pleaded guilty in federal court last week to one count of identity theft and one count of wire fraud. Depending on the final sentencing decision from the presiding judge, Denny Hughes could face up to 20 years in prison. In addition, Hughes agreed to make full restitution for the money he defrauded and he may also be subject to a $500,000 fine.
According to court documents, Hughes created a corporation called Mortgage Relief America in 2008 and then obtained personal information from 21 people who he classified as employees. He later reported that all 21 individuals were laid off and filed with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Unemployment Compensation Program. Hughes had all of the unemployment compensation funds deposited into an account that he created for that purpose. He also conducted a similar operation in Massachusetts, using a fake company named Commonwealth Global Corporation.
In total, Denny Hughes collected $219,970 from the state of Florida and $70,524 from Massachusetts.