Chicago/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 12, 2024
Berwyn Woman Charged in Illinois With Stealing $250K Through State Treasurer's Unclaimed Property ProgramSource: Google Street View

Chicago's battle against fraud took a sharp turn as Attorney General Kwame Raoul charged a Berwyn woman, Maria Michaud, 37, with stealing nearly a quarter-million dollars via a scheme exploiting the state's Unclaimed Property Program. According to the Illinois Attorney General's office, Michaud's audacious theft involved fraudulent claims for unclaimed property belonging to four different victims.

Entering the courtroom in Lake County, Michaud faced arraignment on a litany of counts, two of which are money laundering, with others including aggravated identity theft, theft of government property, and a charge for a continuing financial crimes enterprise. She is accused of redirecting mail via USPS and opening bank accounts to accomplish her fraud. Calling the integrity of Illinois' programs into question. Michaud's crimes represent a breach of the social contract as outlined by Raoul, "Anyone who fraudulently claims property through the program is not only defrauding the state of Illinois. They are stealing from real people who have a right to that property and who may need the financial relief that money or property would bring."

The catcher of the fraudulent acts, Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs' office, stood firm on their commitment to protecting the assets of the rightful owners. As Frerichs said, "We take very seriously our responsibility to safeguard unclaimed property and these criminal charges are evidence that our increased theft-prevention efforts are working." This case, a collaborative effort with the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service, highlights the resolute stance of state and federal agencies against financial malfeasance.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert W. "Wes" Wheeler, Jr. elaborated on the significance of preserving the financial sanctity for Americans, especially during hard times. "With many Americans struggling to afford necessities, every penny counts," he explained. Michaud, who also allegedly took out a $20,275 Paycheck Protection Program loan under one of her victim's names, pleaded not guilty. The public is cautioned to remember that the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. With her next court appearance scheduled for June 4, the state prepares to lay bare the evidence against Michaud, overseen by Assistant Attorney General Amy H. Flynn's prosecution.