Charles Co. man sentenced to more than 4 years in federal prison for $1.5M COVID-19 CARES Act fraud

A Charles County, Maryland, man has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for his part in a fraud scheme involving COVID-19 CARES Act unemployment insurance claims totaling at least $1.5 million.

Dementrous Von Smith, 36, of Waldorf, who also uses the aliases of “Meecho” and “El Meecho,” was sentenced to 53 months in federal prison for wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to a Friday news release from the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland.

Smith’s sentence includes three years of supervised release.

The charges stem from Smith’s involvement in submitting fraudulent CARES Act unemployment insurance claims — exploiting COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts designed to assist those affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic — totaling at least $1.5 million across Arizona, California and Maryland, according to prosecutors.

According to the plea agreement, Smith and his co-conspirators impersonated victims by submitting fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits, utilizing various means to exchange personally identifiable information.

The fraudulent applications for unemployment insurance involved the creation of false email addresses and phone numbers, with the benefits, once obtained, used for cash withdrawals and personal transactions.

Bank records show Smith’s involvement in multiple transactions, including a July 2021 withdrawal of $4,000 using the profile of an identity theft victim.

Co-defendant Michael Akame Ngwese Ay Makoge, 28, of Laurel, who also uses the aliases of “Hype” and “2Hype,” pleaded guilty in connection to the fraud scheme. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years for wire fraud conspiracy and a mandatory two years for aggravated identity theft when he is sentenced on Feb. 1, 2024.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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