A Hickory woman was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing $68,000 from a federal work assistance program.
Jessica Anne Miller, 39, of Hickory, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2021, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years. On Thursday, she was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell to two years in prison and two years of supervised release, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of North Carolina.
Miller stole from a federally funded workforce development program while working as a career coach in the youth program for a nonprofit association of local governments, the release said. A LinkedIn profile for Miller says she worked at NCWorks Career Center in Conover.
Miller was contracted to work for the nonprofit from July 2016 to November 2019, the release said. Information in the release came from court documents.
Miller trained job seekers using federal money available through the U.S. Department of Labor under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which helps job seekers get training, education and support. The act also allows some job seekers to be reimbursed for some expenses like mileage, tools of their trade and some other fees.
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Miller admitted in court that while working as a career coach, she created fake documents, forged signatures and made false statements to people who were part of the workforce program and took the money they were supposed to be reimbursed for herself.
In total, Miller defrauded 40 people and stole more than $68,000.
In some cases, Miler created fake mileage reimbursement forms on behalf of the people enrolled in the workforce program, then cashed the checks and kept the money for herself, the release said.
In other cases, she made fake documents claiming the participants bought reimbursable items, like tools, and needed to be reimbursed. She submitted the forms, cashed the reimbursement checks and kept the money for herself, the release said.
Miller also forged student signatures on forms saying they reached a milestone that would entitle them to gift cards, then kept the gift cards for herself.
Miller also opened bank accounts and American Express accounts in the names of the students without their knowledge and used those accounts to cash the checks.
The Conover Police Department helped with the investigations, the release said.