Pair charged with fraudulently obtaining $100K in aid during pandemic

A suburban duo are the latest state residents to face charges stemming from a monthslong state and federal investigation into unemployment insurance fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaquanice Larry, 27, of Mount Prospect, was arraigned in a Will County courtroom Thursday on a host of charges, including identity theft, theft of government property, state benefits fraud and forgery.

Authorities allege Larry and his co-defendant, the previously charged Whitney Flowers, 22, of Glen Ellyn, stole identities during the pandemic then used the information to fraudulently obtain about $75,000 in unemployment benefits.

Prosecutors say Larry also obtained about $20,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans in the name of a fictitious company. Both loans later were forgiven by the U.S. Small Business Administration, authorities say.

“It's appalling and disappointing the lengths to which individuals were willing to go to defraud the vital resources and funds meant for vulnerable workers who were displaced during the pandemic,” Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Kristin Richards said in an announcement of the charges Thursday.

The most serious charges against Larry are Class 1 felonies, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison. He remained in custody Thursday at the Will County jail on $1.1 million bail.

The charges stem from the work of the Attorney General's Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud, launched by Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the FBI in response to increased reports of unemployment fraud.

“These charges are proof that federal, state and local partners are working together to ensure accountability for anyone attempting to steal critical resources from vulnerable citizens,” FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge John S. Morales said.

The task force has brought charges against six others hailing from DeKalb, Chicago, Country Club Hills, Glenwood, Cahokia Heights and Peoria.

The IDES encourages anyone who has received notice that an unemployment insurance claim has been fraudulently filed in their name to immediately report the claim to the department via its website or by calling (800) 814-0513.

Jake meets namesake's family

The DuPage County Sheriff's Office's newest police dog, Jake, had a special meet-and-greet last weekend when he was introduced to the family of fallen McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jake Keltner.

Bloodhound Jake was named in honor of Keltner, who was killed in the line of duty in March 2019 while attempting to capture a fugitive at a Rockford hotel.

Though working for McHenry County at the time of his death, Keltner, a 35-year-old father of two from Crystal Lake, had deep connections with the DuPage sheriff's office. He started his law enforcement career there as a civilian booking officer and his father, Howard Keltner, was the office's chief of corrections until his retirement. His brother, Zachary, serves as a lieutenant in the office's Corrections Bureau.

The sheriff's office sought the Keltner family's approval before naming the bloodhound Jake. Their response was an enthusiastic yes.

“I think it is awesome they are honoring my son,” Howard Keltner told us over the summer. “Jake loved dogs. He was a dog person through and through.”

A canine star is born

Lake County Sheriff's police dog Dax was the star of the show this fall while completing his United States Police Canine Association certification in Valdosta, Georgia.

So much so that he and his partner, Deputy John Forlenza, got to be on a show. Dax and Forlenza appeared Sunday afternoon on the ESPN2 program “Dynamic K9 Duos,” which highlighted their partnership and stellar showing in Georgia.

That showing included Dax's first-place finishes for tracking and narcotics work. Dax was the only dog to attempt the USPCA's Tracking Exceptional Certification, where he earned 269.5 out of a possible 270 points.

The TV appearance was just the start of a banner week for the pair.

On Sunday night, as Daily Herald staff writer Doug Graham wrote earlier this week, Dax was credited with saving the life of a 25-year-old woman who left her home in mental distress and may have been suffering from hypothermia. Dax tracked the woman, who was not dressed for the chilly weather, to a wooded area, where she received assistance.

You break, you pay

Breaking things in the courtroom because you don't like what you're hearing is a sure way to make your life worse.

Susan was in a hallway near the civil courtrooms in DuPage County on Tuesday when two gaggles of courthouse security deputies ran past at full speed. They were heading to a courtroom where an order of protection case was being heard. 

Inside, they arrested Seth P. Tesch, 27, of Wheaton, on a felony charge of criminal damage to government-owned property. It alleges he flipped over a table, breaking its legs and a microphone connection.

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DuPage County sheriff's bloodhound Jake met last weekend with the family of his namesake, fallen McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jake Keltner, who was killed in the line of duty in March 2019. Courtesy of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office
Jake the bloodhound, the newest DuPage County sheriff's office dog, met last weekend with the family of McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jake Keltner. Jake the dog was named in honor of Keltner. Courtesy of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office
It was a banner week for Lake County sheriff's police dog Dax, who appeared on an ESPN television program Sunday afternoon and then hours later helped track down a missing and endangered woman. Courtesy of the DuPage County Sheriff's Office
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