Former EDD worker accused in unemployment benefits fraud and identity theft scheme
May 19, 2017
• One of five indicted
• Scheme extracted more than $800,000 in false EDD claims
An 18-count indictment has been unsealed following the arrests of two of the five people named by the federal grand jury for unemployment benefits fraud and an identity theft scheme, says U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
The indictment charges Pamela Emanuel, 57, of San Jose; Gregory Lee, 55, of Antioch; Russell White III, 35, of Turlock; Brittany Maunakea, 27, of Turlock; and Sergio Reyna, 24, of Stockton with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 16 counts of mail fraud.
Ms. Emanuel and Mr. Lee are also charged with separate counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, between April 2013 and July 2016, the five conspired to execute a scheme to defraud the state of California. Ms. Emanuel worked as a tax compliance representative for the California Employment Development Department. The grand jury claims she used her position to access the personal identifying information of workers throughout California and gave that information to other members of the conspiracy who filed fraudulent unemployment claims in the names of the unknowing victims.
When Ms. Emanuel contacted EDD to pose as a laid-off employee, she used a virtual private network designed to mask her IP address in an attempt to hide her identity, the government says. When the defendants filed claims with EDD, they usually provided the name of a fake business as the claimant’s last employer, says the grand jury. As a result, the victim’s true employer was not immediately notified that a claim was filed.
The scheme resulted in the conspirators receiving more than $800,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits and over 250 stolen identities.
If convicted, and an indictment is only the accusation, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Ms. Emanuel and Mr. Lee also face statutory mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, which would run consecutive to any other sentence imposed.