Southwest Virginia woman admits to half-million-dollar unemployment scheme

Leelyn Danielle Chytka
Leelyn Danielle Chytka

BIG STONE GAP, Va. — A southwestern Virginia woman has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, over a scheme to fraudulently obtain nearly half a million dollars in unemployment benefits.

Leelyn Chytka, 28, of Lebanon, has agreed to plead guilty to defrauding the United States, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and distribution of Suboxone.

The scheme began last May, when Chytka signed up for unemployment benefits for herself and two other conspirators, including one who was incarcerated in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail at Duffield at the time. Inmates are not eligible for unemployment benefits, but Chytka got around that by filing on his behalf and using her address.

Once that was successful, Chytka expanded the scheme to include 36 other people, including friends, family members and at least 15 other inmates at jails in the region.

Federal records indicate Chytka kept most of the money paid to inmates, occasionally placing money in some of their commissary accounts, or buying them vehicles or drugs. She got drugs into the jail by hiding Suboxone strips behind stamps on letters mailed to the inmates.

Some of the inmates were not paid at all.

When interviewed by authorities, Chytka said she had hoped to set up a legitimate business charging people a fee to file fraudulent claims, rather than stealing their money.

In all, the scheme resulted in more than $499,000 in fraudulent benefits being paid, but authorities have only recovered $43,000. As part of her plea agreement, Chytka will have to repay the remaining $456,000.