Fredericksburg man guilty in COVID unemployment benefits scheme that netted up to $3.5M

A Fredericksburg, Virginia, man pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge for his part in a scheme where he and others obtained somewhere between $550,000 and $3.5 million in pandemic unemployment benefits.

The scheme involved mail theft, bank fraud and pandemic unemployment benefits.

Eric Wilhoit II, 28, along with his siblings, Odyssey Wilhoit, 23, Jeremiah Wilhoit, 26, and his cousin Dejhaun Wilhoit, 26, conspired to get the benefits, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The relatives have been indicted but have not been convicted.

Eric Wilhoit admitted he submitted applications for unemployment claims to get the money, according to the justice department. The scheme went on from May 2020 through January 2022.

The 28-year-old admitted that he applied for pandemic unemployment benefits in his name and the names of others, including identity theft victims, and admitted he showed his relatives how to do the same thing.

Wilhoit said the group used the money to buy luxury goods, including a diamond ring.

When authorities went to arrest him, he led them on a high-speed chase where he ended up crashing his car with children in the back seat.

Wilhoit faces up to 20 years in prison when he is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25, 2023 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Tadiwos Abedje

Tadi Abedje is a freelance digital writer/editor for WTOP. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. Journalism has been his No. 1 passion since he was a kid and he is blessed to be around people, telling their stories and sharing them with the world.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up