Former Job Security Department Employee Charged With Filing Bogus Unemployment Claims and Demanding Bribes | USAO-WDWA
Tacoma – A former employee of the Washington State Department of Job Security has been indicted in a 20-count indictment for his scheme to exploit his job for profit enrichment and to fraudulently distribute at least $ 360,000 in unemployment benefits related to the pandemic, Interim US Attorney Tessa M Gorman said. Reyes De La Cruz, III, 47, of Moses Lake, Washington, is said to have personally enriched himself by at least $ 130,000 with his scheme. De La Cruz was arrested this morning in Moses Lake, and will make his first appearance on the indictment Monday in Spokane and at a later date he will appear in US District Court in Tacoma where the case is filed.
“Dedicated investigators continue to mount criminal cases against those who sought to enrich themselves illegally during our nation’s pandemic crisis,” said Acting United States Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “In this case, an insider used his official access and knowledge to enrich himself illegally. Even as ESD faced the challenges of handling the high volume of legitimate claims, it chose to take advantage of its position to worsen the unprecedented fraud on unemployment benefits. “
According to the indictment, De La Cruz was hired as a reception officer in April 2020 to help the Department of Job Security (ESD) cope with the crushing demands for unemployment benefits in the event of a pandemic. De La Cruz previously worked for ESD, from 1996 to 2003.
The indictment alleges that De La Cruz used his access to the ESD claims database to defraud the benefits system in three different ways. First, he filed claims using other people’s personal information, and then charged the benefits to the debit cards that were mailed to addresses in Moses Lake, Wash., Where De La Cruz was. were able to recover them. Even after his employment with ESD ended on October 1, 2020, De La Cruz attempted to restart claim payments on these debit cards to take advantage of additional benefits in the event of a federal pandemic. De La Cruz went so far as to impersonate a plaintiff during recorded phone calls with ESD and a bank. He impersonated another claimant in handwritten correspondence which he then faxed to ESD. In this way, he defrauded ESD of over $ 110,000.
Second, De La Cruz also accepted bribes in exchange for engineering compensation payments for friends, family or acquaintances by making false entries in the claims database. In many cases, the person was not eligible for benefits, but De La Cruz manipulated the claims database so that claimants received retroactive lump sum payments that sometimes amounted to tens of thousands of dollars. The claimants would then pay De La Cruz part of the lump sum.
Third, in some cases where claimants refused or refused to pay De La Cruz, he threatened to terminate the claim if they did not pay him.
In total, De La Cruz made at least $ 21,000 richer through bribes.
The Department of Job Security uncovered evidence of fraud, fired De La Cruz, and referred the case to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Labor (DOL-OIG). The FBI has joined the investigation. The Moses Lake Police Department and the Washington State Department of Corrections were involved in today’s arrest.
De La Cruz is charged with six counts of wire fraud. He is charged with nine counts of bribing an official of an organization receiving federal funds. De La Cruz is charged with one count of extortion under cover of official law and four counts of aggravated identity theft.
Electronic fraud related to a major disaster or emergency declared by the President is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Corruption of an agent receiving federal funds is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Extortion under the guise of official law is punishable by 20 years in prison. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by two years consecutive to any other sentence imposed in the case.
EDD pandemic fraud is the subject of a cooperative investigation by the FBI, DOL-OIG, Office of the Inspector General of Social Security, U.S. Secret Service, US Department of United States Postal Inspection and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations. Washington’s Department of Job Security is cooperating with investigations.
This case is being pursued by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cindy Chang and Seth Wilkinson.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Working Group to mobilize the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to combat and prevent the pandemic fraud. The Working Group strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable national and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by scaling up and integrating mechanisms coordination, identifying resources and techniques for uncovering fraudulent actors and their programs, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Enforcement (NCDF) hotline at 866-720 -5721 or via the NCDF web complaint form at: https: // www. .justice.gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.