A Duluth man has received an 8½-year prison term for carrying out an identity theft scheme that netted him more than a quarter-million dollars from two COVID-19 relief funds.
Jared J. Fiege, 35, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after pleading guilty to stealing benefits from unemployment insurance and economic disaster loan programs over a four-month stretch in 2020.
Along with his prison time, Fiege's sentence includes three years of supervised release and orders him to pay nearly $285,000 in restitution.
Prosecutors pointed out in their presentencing filing that most of the identities he stole came from the laptop computer of his stepfather, who provided tax accounting services to numerous clients.
"Most of these identities ... belonged to dedicated peace officers and civil servants employed by the city of Duluth," the prosecution filing continued as part of its argument for the 8½-year term Fiege ultimately received.
A counter-filing by defense attorney Bruce Rivers sought no more than five years in prison and noted that Fiege took responsibility for his crimes and has had psychological challenges both since his grandparents died when he was young and from incidents he responded to as an emergency medical technician.
From April to August 2020, Fiege submitted fraudulent applications for the assistance by using stolen names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of at least 20 people, according to his guilty plea to charges of wire fraud and identity theft. In applying for economic disaster loan assistance and advances, Fiege invented fictional business entities, which he linked to the identities of real people.
He used multiple cellphones, e-mail addresses and fraudulent passports to impersonate others, prosecutors alleged. He opened bank accounts and requested bank cards to be issued by mail to other people's addresses, which he would then steal from their mailboxes.
According to court documents, authorities believe Fiege stole at least $35,000 in unemployment claims. It is also believed that he received $35,000 from the Small Business Administration that was meant to help struggling businesses during the pandemic.
In August, an operations officer at Share Advantage Credit Union in Duluth noticed an ATM was dispensing unusually large amounts of cash, according to the documents.
At Fiege's residence, authorities found stolen guns and $170,000 in cash. Inside his truck, they found $19,000 in cash, cellphones and binders full of account records for various people.
State court records show Fiege has been convicted four times for theft and twice for stalking.