Five people, including two from the Mid-Columbia, pleaded guilty this week to federal charges of theft of government funds for fraudulently collecting unemployment benefits, the U.S. Attorney's office announced Friday.
Each unlawfully collected benefits ranging from $5,500 to $36,000, according to a news release.
Bobby Joe Perez, 33, of Kennewick, collected about $16,980, the release said. An investigation revealed he was actually employed from April 2011 to January 2012 while falsely reporting that he was unemployed.
Matthew Allegal Loges, 33, of Prosser, collected about $5,755, the release said. He filed for unemployment from May to November 2011 while he was incarcerated in a state correctional facility on unrelated charges.
Loges told investigators he considered the payments a "low-interest loan from the state" that he could use to make payments on a new boat and a new car while serving time in prison.
The men are required to repay the money.