Duluth man accused of COVID-related fraud

A 34-year-old Duluth man is facing federal charges for alleged COVID-19 relief fraud, identity theft and illegal possession of firearms.

Authorities say that Jared John Fiege “devised and executed a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief through the Unemployment Insurance program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program” from April 2020 to August of 2020.

According to authorities, Fiege submitted fraudulent applications for these programs using stolen names, birth dates, and social security numbers of at least 25 people.

In doing this, authorities say Fiege impersonated others using fraudulent phone numbers, email addresses and passports. Additionally, authorities say Fiege created fictional business entities, which he linked to the identities of real people without their knowledge or consent.

Fiege also allegedly established false bank accounts and requested bank cards to be issued by mail, which authorities say allowed him to withdraw significant amounts of cash from those accounts.

On top of this, authorities say Fiege illegally possessed two firearms. One was a Glock 43, 9 mm handgun and the other was a Sig Sauer handgun. Because he has prior felony convictions, authorities say Fiege is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition at any time.

The investigation was done by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Duluth Police Department.

In a statement on Facebook, Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said DPD Investigator Ryan Temple had been working on the case since August.

“These cases are very complex and time consuming and require a steadfast attention to detail. Well done Investigator Temple in holding accountable this serial offender,” Tusken wrote.

Tusken also told WDIO that he was saddened to see someone take advantage of COVID relief intended to help struggling Americans.

“To have somebody take advantage of those systems that were in place as a safety net to help people who were struggling—that truly did make this unique and different than we have seen in other investigations,” Tusken said.

According to Tusken, the victims of the fraud have been notified, but he added that more victims may come forward in time.

“As part of an investigation, you connect with the victims. Some may know they have been a victim, some do not and as a result, with each one of them, there is a story, there is a lead to follow and so that contributes to the significance of this investigation as well is of course when you have multiple victims,” Tusken said.

To prevent falling victim to fraud, Tusken recommends putting passwords and pins on personal information, as well as, getting frequent credit checks, which can detect fraud early on.

Fiege is charged with five counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

Fiege was listed as an inmate in the Douglas County Jail as of Friday.