Former Southern California Department of Employment Development (EDD) employee agrees to plead guilty to fraudulently obtaining over $ 1.6 million in COVID-related unemployment benefits
September 10, 2021 – LOS ANGELES – Former California Employment Development Department (EDD) employee has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges for causing nearly 200 frauds COVID-related unemployment assistance claims must be made on behalf of others, resulting in more than $ 1.6 million in ill-gotten gains, the Justice Department said on Thursday, September 9, 2021.
Gabriela Llerenas, aka “Maria G. Sandoval”, 49, of Perris, signed a plea deal that was filed today in which she agreed to plead guilty to a one-man story accusing her of mail fraud .
Court records show that Llerenas previously worked at EDD as a representative of the disability insurance program. She resigned in March 2002 after admitting to fraudulently authorizing and paying disability benefits administered by EDD. She was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison under this program.
The new scheme that Llerenas admitted to managing took advantage of the expansion of eligibility for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits made possible by the CARES (Aid, Relief and Economic Security) law against coronaviruses adopted by Congress and enacted in March 2020. The CARES law provided additional unemployment insurance benefits to skilled people and helped provide unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic to people who were not otherwise there eligible, including business owners, self-employed, independent contractors and those with limited work history.
From April to October 2020, Llerenas filed and caused fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits to be filed with EDD that falsely claimed that the named claimants were independent independent contractors – often identifying them as cake decorators or event attendants – who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Llerenas obtained some of the names, social security numbers and other identifying information she used to submit fraudulent claims through her previous work as a tax preparer.
In his plea agreement, Llerenas also admitted to falsely stating on some of the claims that the claimants were residents of California entitled to unemployment insurance benefits administered by EDD when in fact they lived elsewhere. She also admitted that, on some claims, she inflated the income amounts that she reported for the claimant in order to maximize the amount of the benefit. She also admitted that she sometimes filed a dozen or more fraudulent EDD requests in a day.
As a result of the fraudulent unemployment benefit claims that Llerenas filed and had filed, EDD authorized Bank of America to send debit cards on behalf of the claimants to the addresses it provided, including his residence, the her husband’s workplace, her mother’s apartment, and the addresses of friends and other family members.
Llerenas admitted that she charged named claimants a fee for completing the claims, which was often paid from the fraudulently obtained benefits. In at least one case, she told the named claimant that she was still employed at EDD and could control the distribution of UI benefits, then demanded an additional payment to “release” them. benefits.
A total of 197 debit cards were fraudulently issued as a result of this scheme, resulting in losses for EDD and the US Treasury which Llerenas said amounted to at least $ 1,633,487.
Llerenas is scheduled to appear for the first time on September 22. The criminal offense to which Llerenas has agreed to plead guilty carries a legal maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Department of Labor-Office of the Inspector General, EDD-Investigations Division, Homeland Security Investigations, United States Postal Inspection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Social Security Administration-Office of the Inspector General investigated this matter.
Deputy U.S. Attorney Ranee A. Katzenstein, Chief of the Major Fraud Section, is pursuing this case.
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 responsible for 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 allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF web complaint form at: https: //www.justice .gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Source: MJ press release