Inland Empire trio plead guilty in $1.2-million COVID-19 unemployment fraud

A woman in the inland empire pleaded guilty to federal fraud on Monday and admitted that she had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in fake COVID-related unemployment benefits on behalf of prison inmates in California.

San Bernardino’s Paris Thomas, 33, from a state agency that handles unemployment benefits using the identities of dozens of prisoners and others, according to a judicial deal with a U.S. public prosecutor’s office prosecutor. Collected illegal payments of $ 477,000.

Convicted Thomas joined two other women who pleaded guilty to committing the same fraud.

On Friday, Moreno Valley’s Sequoia Edwards, 35, and Colton’s Mireya Ramos, 42, each pleaned one case of wire fraud.

Together, the woman raised $ 1.2 million in unemployment benefits under more than 100 names. Most of them were prisoners.

The prosecution said the women held some of the money and sent the rest to others who appeared to be involved in the plan.

The prosecution did not say whether the prisoner received the money.

If sentenced this summer, each woman could face up to 30 years in prison. As part of the agreement with the prosecutor, the prosecutor must confiscate the same amount of assets as the payment received.

Their case is part of a rash of unemployment fraud programs that took place around the state when California received billions of dollars of federal aid to mitigate the effects of a pandemic on workers and their families.

State officials estimate that at least $ 810 million in false unemployment benefits have been submitted on behalf of California prison inmates. Investigators say unemployment fraud losses across the state can exceed at least $ 11 billion.

Frauds such as those committed by Thomas and other women were charged with two murderers and four other state prisoners filing fraudulent unemployment benefits that earned nearly $ 500,000 in January. It led to prosecution throughout the state, including the Orange County case.

Thomas was arrested in April after investigators identified 15 prisoners who filed claims between June and December, according to plea bargaining.

In the application, Thomas described the prisoner as a barber, carpet cleaner, and painter who lost his job due to a pandemic. According to one claim, she asked for more than $ 20,000.

During a February search for Thomas’s home, investigators seized a debit card issued by the state’s Employment Development Department and a note containing information on more than 40 people, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

In an interview with an FBI agent, Thomas acknowledged the trick.

“I did that, and it was just having extra money,” she said.

Edwards filed at least 27 fraudulent claims in the last summer two months, including six using the identities of California prison inmates allegedly received from a imprisoned cousin, according to the case’s plea bargaining. He has been accused of having gone. She admitted that she had deducted $ 456,000 through fraudulent claims.

The FBI recovered some state-issued debit cards of various names and $ 45,000 in cash after a search for a home in Moreno Valley in Edwards in February, according to an affidavit filed in support of her criminal accusation. did.

Ramos allegedly made 37 fraudulent claims, most of which were inmates’ names and misrepresented many as “barbers who couldn’t work because of a pandemic.”

She obtained information about the prisoner from her boyfriend, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in Calipatria, the prosecutor said in court records.

Her home notebook contained details about all the prisoners she had filed throughout the California prison. Between June and January last year, she was paid at least $ 353,532 unemployment benefits for her claims.

State legislators have severely criticized EDD and have been implemented in other states, including the use of more sophisticated software to identify suspicious applications, the exclusion of social security numbers from official emails, and cross-checking profits. Many false allegations can be prevented if the precautionary measures are taken. Billing for personal data about state prison inmates — a routine procedure in many other states.

Inland Empire trio plead guilty in $1.2-million COVID-19 unemployment fraud Source link Inland Empire trio plead guilty in $1.2-million COVID-19 unemployment fraud

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