Health security upped at Chester County courthouse

The Chester County Justice Center on West Market Street in West Chester is a less busy place than in its 13-year history, all because of coronavirus.

A Coatesville man, an inmate at Chester County Prison, faces 90 years in prison after pleading guilty to fraudulently applying for and obtaining coronavirus emergency unemployment benefits last year.

Jacob Fulton, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and fraud in connection with emergency benefits.

According to the indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Fulton and Emily Baier, 32, also of Coatesville, agreed to obtain personal information from inmates at Chester County Prison and submit claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits on behalf of those inmates, and agreed to obtain for themselves a portion of those benefits paid on the PUA claims.

Fulton obtained personal information from inmates in Chester County Prison, and provided this information to Baier for the purpose of preparing and filing applications for PUA benefits.

Baier, authorities said, submitted fraudulent applications for PUA benefits on behalf of inmates. These applications falsely alleged that the inmates were immediately available for work, and that they were currently unemployed due to the pandemic.

The scheme took place on or about July 18, 2020, when Fulton called Baier on the telephone and discussed filing fraudulent PUA claim applications for inmates. They discussed that they would give the weekly base amount of the PUA benefit to the Inmates, but the defendants would "keep the extra $600 payment that (the Inmates) get a week." Fulton told defendant Baier on this call that they "can be rich."

Fulton then called Baier and told her to fill out an inmate's PUA . He told her to use his home address for one of the inmate’s claim. Baier later spoke to one of the inmates on a recorded call from Chester County Prison which the inmate asked when the proceeds will arrive, and also said, "I really do appreciate you guys." During the call, Baier agreed that she will provide the inmate the proceeds after he is out of prison.

After the hearing, Fulton was remanded to the U.S. Marshal.

Fulton is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3, 2021 in courtroom 13B before Judge Eduardo C. Robreno. Fulton faces a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $2.2 million.

Other inmates at Chester County face charges in connection with the scheme to fraudulently obtain PUA benefits, including Vincent Hazzard, 49, of Coatesville, Baier, 26, of Coatesville, Christopher Hersh, 36, of Avondale, Kenneth Huggins, 24, of Coatesville, and Patrice Hawthorne, 46, Biancha Kranzley, 31, of Coatesville, Jennifer D’Hulster, 37, of Coatesville, Zachary Gathercole, 30, of Sadsburyville, Ashley Harrington, 30, of West Chester, Arthur Johnson, 44, of Coatesville and Anthony Schweitzer, 20, of Coatesville.

“These fraudsters — many of whom were already incarcerated for breaking the law — treated a national public health crisis as an opportunity to cash in,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “This callous attitude rips off honest taxpayers who fund relief programs and also makes it much more difficult to provide funds to those who deserve and need them. My office will do everything in its power to ensure that coronavirus fraud scams are stopped and punished.”

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