EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A federal grand jury in East St. Louis, Illinois, has
returned a 7-count indictment charging Talfanita M. Cobb, 49, of East St. Louis, with
participating in a scheme that fraudulently obtained more than $800,000 in unemployment insurance
benefits from three states. The indictment charges Cobb with conspiracy, mail fraud, and
aggravated identity theft. Some of the money allegedly came from federal pandemic unemployment
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous pain and suffering in our country,” said
U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft. “So many Americans have lost their lives, and many thousands
more face severe economic hardship after losing their jobs. For those most affected, the federal
government has approved special funds. It is reprehensible that unscrupulous individuals would take
advantage of these new programs to line their own pockets. These individuals should take note: we
will investigate and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to the indictment, Cobb’s co-conspirators used stolen identities to apply for
unemployment insurance benefits in Arizona, Ohio, and Texas. Each application allegedly listed
Cobb’s address in East St. Louis as the address of the applicant. The applications were approved,
and unemployment benefits were issued to the individuals whose names and identities had been
stolen. Some of the funds were allegedly deposited directly into a bank account controlled by Cobb.
After a short time, however, the co-conspirators were able to acquire debit cards, which
the states issued in the names of the identity theft victims and allegedly mailed to Cobb in
East St. Louis.
The indictment alleges that, after she received the unemployment debit cards in the mail, Cobb went
to various ATMs in the Metro East and withdrew funds from the cards. She is accused of transferring
some of the funds to a co-conspirator using Bitcoin and keeping a percentage of the money for
Inspector in Charge William Hedrick of the United States Postal Inspection Service’s
Chicago Division stated, “Individuals who use the U.S. Mail to steal public benefit money
designated for citizens suffering unemployment as a result of a pandemic must be held
accountable. The Postal Inspection Service and its law enforcement partners are committed to
investigating and prosecuting those who wish to exploit relief funding for their own personal
An indictment is merely a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, the defendant is
presumed to be innocent of the charges until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
satisfaction of a jury.
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