Fort Branch mom and daughter sentenced for COVID wire fraud

Crime

FORT BRANCH, Ind – Two Fort Branch, Indiana women have been sentenced in connection with a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to commit large-scale fraud against state unemployment insurance programs.

Andrea Renee Pytlinski, 40, and Rose Ann Azzarello, 61, both of Fort Branch were arrested and charged with wire fraud in July 2020. Azzarello is the mother of Pytlinski. Pytlinski was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, must serve 3 years of supervised release following her incarceration, and ordered to pay $27,522 in restitution. Azzarello was sentenced to 4 years of supervised release and ordered to pay $27,522 in restitution.

Shortly after the CARES Act was signed, the U.S. Secret Service started receiving reports about a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring exploiting the COVID-19 crisis through a large-scale fraud against state unemployment insurance programs. A major state targeted was Washington.

Fort Branch Police Department received a complaint in May 2020 from Field and Main Bank in Evansville, regarding account transactions in which Washington State Unemployment benefits were being ACH transferred into Indiana bank accounts held by Azzarello and Pytlinski. Agents discovered those accounts were being funded with Washington State unemployment benefits and the proceeds of a check forgery scheme.

For more than a year, Azzarello and Pytlinski participated in a wire fraud scheme by receiving and sending funds via wire and common courier. After the illicit funds were deposited into their accounts, Azzarello and Pytlinski would withdraw the funds prior to the detection of any fraud and then transmit a portion of the ill-gotten funds to a third party while retaining their share. In total, the fraud schemes the women participated in involved more than $95,000.

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