(WTTW News)

A Chicago husband and wife are among half a dozen postal workers who allegedly fraudulently applied for various government loans and aid during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Louis Lay Jr., 32, and his 34-year-old wife, Erica Beck, were each held on $20,000 D bonds during a hearing on Friday, a day after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul . announced an indictment this included dozens of charges against six current or former postal workers.

“Thieves who intentionally took advantage of the situation to steal money from the government also slowed down the processing of legitimate claims,” ​​Raoul said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing collaborations through the Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud Task Force to ensure individuals are held accountable for their actions at a time when many Americans desperately needed help. .”

Lay and Beck must pay $2,000 to be released.

Also charged are Davonte Kendall, 30, Bria Taylor, 27, Imani Butler, 29, and Raven Daniel, 28. Raoul filed more than 65 felony counts, including theft by deception, state benefit fraud, loan fraud, wire fraud, and forgery.

The six defendants are accused of fraudulently applying for loans from the Small Business Administration for businesses that did not exist. Four of the defendants are also accused of applying for fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits while still employed by the US Postal Service.

Lay and Beck, in particular, are also accused of leading a scheme to steal $25,000 in economic impact payments from South Shore residents in Chicago.

During Friday’s hearing, Raoul’s office alleged that Lay took money from the post office where he worked – including a gas card that was not intended for personal use – and stole Economic Impact Payment checks from mailboxes along his route and deposited them in a checking account he shared with Beck.

Beck reportedly received unemployment benefits and loans for a business she did not own. In total, they allegedly stole approximately $88,000.

The charges came after the Office of the Postal Service Inspector General learned that some USPS employees were potentially receiving paychecks while collecting unemployment insurance benefits. This led to a joint state and federal investigation that included the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the United States Department of Labor, the Treasury Department, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the FBI. .

“Unemployment programs exist to support our residents in times of dire need, not to line the pockets of the privileged few with ill-gotten profits,” said Emmerson Buie, Jr., special agent in charge of the Chicago Division of the FBI, in a statement. “This week’s charges are the first, but certainly not the last, as we continue to work with our law enforcement and prosecution partners to protect public funds.”

Lay and Beck are due back in court for a hearing on July 7.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431