LEAKESVILLE, Miss. (WKRG) – A south Mississippi woman was convicted Wednesday, March 1 of applying for and distributing unemployment benefits to a group of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laketia Andrews Crossley, 51, of McComb, was convicted of conspiring to commit wire fraud, conspiring to commit theft of public money, theft of public money and making a false statement to a federal agent.

Evidence presented at trial showed Crossley received $13,026 in federal unemployment insurance benefits on behalf of four inmates at South Mississippi Correctional Institute (SMCI) in Leakesville from June to August 2020.

The Dept. of Labor said the inmates’ applications were initially approved due to the overwhelming demand for unemployment insurance through the CARES Act at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debit cards with the benefits were mailed to Crossley by the Mississippi Dept. of Employment Security. She transmitted the funds to her boyfriend Sedrick Pittman at SMCI. Crossley lied about applying for and receiving the benefits when questioned about her actions by special agents from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG), the jury found.

Three of the four inmates pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in August 2022 and were ordered to pay restitution and sentenced to federal prison after they complete their initial time at SMCI. They are:

  • Sedrick Pittman, 42, serving 30 years in SMCI on charges from Pike County of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of firearm by convicted felon. Sentenced to 14 months in unemployment scheme.
  • Marcus Parker, 34, serving for life in SMCI on charges from Pike County of murder and armed robbery. Sentenced to six months in unemployment scheme.
  • Calveshar Isaac, 30, serving 30 years in SMCI on charges from Pike and Walhall counties for residential burglary, accessory after the fact and possession of firearm by convicted felon. Sentenced to five months in unemployment scheme.

A fourth inmate, Austin Bahm, 25, pleaded guilty on February 16 to making a false material statement for telling investigators that a fellow inmate, not Crossley, applied for unemployment benefits on his behalf. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18. The maximum sentence is five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

He is currently in SMCI for 10 years on charges from Pike County of identity theft, grand larceny and conspiracy to commit a crime.

After a three-day trial prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Purdie and Charles Kirkham at the federal courthouse in Natchez, a jury found Crossley guilty of all charges.

Crossley is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1, 2023 in Natchez. The combined charges carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and $1 million fine.