Public Safety

Woman convicted for embezzling Iowa unemployment funds is going back to prison

Numerous violations on supervised released

A federal judge Tuesday revoked supervised release for a woman, who was convicted for embezzling over $43,000 in unemployment insurance benefits, and is sending her back to prison for 18 months.

U.S. District Senior Judge Linda Reade said most of the explanations made by Linda F. Pippen, now known as Linda Barnes, 48, of Waterloo, didn’t make much sense when she tried to refute the numerous violations that her probation officer testified about during a hearing last week and Tuesday.

Pippen pleaded guilty in 2011 to one count of embezzlement from a program receiving federal funds and one count of aggravated identity theft and was sentenced to four years in prison.

She was discharged from prison in 2015 and was serving three years on supervised release.

Pippen was also the lead plaintiff in a high profile class action discrimination lawsuit for black workers suing the state. Lawyers filed a motion to drop her from the suit after she pleaded guilty but a judge denied it. The class action didn’t go forward and some of the individuals claims were settled by the state or dismissed.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Pippen wouldn’t admit to traveling out of the district and state, which is a violation, when confronted with proof that probation had analyzed her cell phone and could track it in Illinois and North Carolina at different times. She said her boyfriend took her phone and explained the texts where she told people not to tell anybody she was in North Carolina were sent by her boyfriend.

Pippen also wouldn’t admit to opening new lines of credit or credit card accounts, which are also violations. Even when Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Tvedt had her credit report and questioned her about the accounts.

After Pippen’s testimony, Reade bluntly said she didn’t believe her.

Reade pointed out Pippen tried to hide some jobs from probation, so her wages wouldn’t be garnished since she owes over $41,000 of the embezzled $43,582 in restitution. She also took a job at a tax service, which was a violation because she can’t have a job that allowed her access to financial or personal information, Reade noted.

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Reade also pointed out that Pippen set up a “dummy” laptop, which wasn’t her laptop to conceal her activities. Pippen again blamed her boyfriend but Reade said all of her explanations were “absolutely ridiculous.”

John Bishop, Pippen’s lawyer, asked Reade to place his client under house arrest so she could stay in the community and find employment and be able to have a back surgery.

Pippen said she admitted the violations and pointed out she hadn’t had any issues or committed any crimes while being on supervised release. She had job prospects and promised to follow the guidelines.

“Your second chance was here to fess up…but your testimony wasn’t honest,” Reade said.

Pippen, in her 2011 plea, admitted that she embezzled funds from Iowa Workforce Development while she was employed as a workforce adviser from May 2008 to November 2009 in the Cedar Rapids office. She embezzled about $43,582 in unemployment insurance funds, according to court documents.

She altered the computerized accounts of individuals receiving unemployment funds and didn’t close certain accounts for individuals who found employment, but instead, left those open and eligible to receive benefits, according to the plea agreement.

She then altered the bank accounts and routing numbers with the accounts so those benefits could be directed to bank accounts under her control, court documents show. Pippen misused the identities of several people.

Pippen has prior convictions for embezzlement, third-degree theft and identity theft, according to court documents. She was hired at Iowa Workforce Development in 1998, and officials after her conviction said they didn’t know about her criminal record.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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