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News / Northwest

Former Seattle man gets 8-plus years for stealing $1M in COVID benefits

By Claire Bryan, The Seattle Times
Published: May 24, 2023, 11:28am

May 24—A former Seattle resident who concocted a fraud scheme to steal during the pandemic was sentenced Tuesday to eight years and three months in prison.

Bryan Alan Sparks, 42, was indicted in a fraud scheme in November 2021 and pleaded guilty in January 2023, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“People such as Mr. Sparks took advantage of the public and our government at the height of a crisis, and I’m glad to see him held accountable for the damage he caused,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a statement. “The harm goes beyond depleting government funds — his use of other people’s identities has damaged the victims and will continue to cause problems for them into the future.”

From March 2020 to at least January 2021, Sparks and his co-conspirator, Autumn Gail Luna used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information of more than 50 Washingtonians and businesses to apply for unemployment benefits and pandemic small business loans.

Over a nine-month period, despite multiple encounters with law enforcement in multiple states, Sparks had at least 46 cellphones, 14 laptops and countless bank and identification cards, assistant U.S. attorney Cindy Chang wrote in her sentencing memo.

Victims’ credit scores dropped. Some couldn’t start businesses or invest in real estate. And they lost hours on the phone with law enforcement reporting identity theft.

In addition to prison time, Sparks was ordered to pay $1,041,661 in restitution to the government programs.

Sparks met Luna when she was 19 and manipulated her into participating in the fraud scheme, according to court documents.

Luna was charged and pleaded guilty, but in March 2023 she was accepted into a diversion program called Drug Reentry Alternative Model, or DREAM, according to court documents.