File Photo | Photo: Illinois State Treasurer

The Illinois Attorney General says a woman has been charged in Lake County with stealing nearly $250,000 in unclaimed property from four victims by filing fraudulent claims with the state treasurer.

Maria Michaud, 37, of Berwyn, was arraigned on the felony charges in Lake County Circuit Court on Thursday.

She was charged with two counts of money laundering, three counts of aggravated identity theft, two counts of identity theft, two counts of theft of government property and one count of continuing a financial crimes enterprise.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Michaud filed four fraudulent claims with the Illinois Treasurer’s office for $247,760.29 worth of unclaimed property in other individuals’ names.

Michaud is alleged to have changed several of her victims’ addresses with the U.S. Postal Service and opened numerous bank accounts in the names of her victims, Raoul said.

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Illinois’ Unclaimed Property Program aims to reunite lost funds and property with the rightful owners.

“Anyone who fraudulently claims property through the program is not only defrauding the state of Illinois. They are stealing from real people who have a right to that property and who may need the financial relief that money or property would bring,” Raoul said.

“I will continue to collaborate with Treasurer Frerichs and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and hold individuals accountable for taking advantage of this program,” Raoul said.

The investigation was opened after the Illinois Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division flagged the paid claims as potentially being fraudulent.

“We take very seriously our responsibility to safeguard unclaimed property and these criminal charges are evidence that our increased theft-prevention efforts are working,” Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said.

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“I deeply appreciate the cooperation and professionalism of Attorney General Raoul and the FBI to bring this case to justice and the General Assembly for providing us the financial resources to upgrade our fraud prevention systems,” Frerichs said.

Frerichs said the unclaimed property victims in the case did not lose their money.

In addition to the unclaimed property claims, Michaud also allegedly took out a $20,275 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan in the name of one of her victims.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Postal Inspection Service assisted in the investigation.

“With many Americans struggling to afford necessities, every penny counts,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Wheeler, Jr.

“We are committed to working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to ensure that these important financial resources go to their rightful owners,” Wheeler said.

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The most serious charges against Michaud are Class X felonies that carry up to 30 years in prison. Two of the victims involved are over 60 years old, which means extended sentencing could be imposed.

Michaud pleaded not guilty to the charges and she is scheduled to appear in court again on June 4.