LOS ANGELES – A previous California Employment Advancement Department (EDD) employee has agreed to plead guilty to a federal felony charge for creating practically 200 fraudulent COVID-connected unemployment relief claims to be filed in other people’s names, ensuing in extra than $1.6 million in ill-gotten gains, the Justice Office declared currently.
Gabriela Llerenas, a.k.a. “Maria G. Sandoval,” 49, of Perris, signed a plea arrangement that was submitted these days in which she has agreed to plead guilty to a single-count information charging her with mail fraud.
Court docket records clearly show that Llerenas previously labored at EDD as a disability insurance plan system consultant. She resigned in March 2002 just after admitting to fraudulently authorizing and shelling out incapacity benefits administered by EDD. She was sentenced to 37 months in federal jail in relationship with that plan.
The new plan that Llerenas has admitted functioning took gain of the expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance coverage (UI) benefits produced possible by the Coronavirus Help, Aid, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into legislation in March 2020. The CARES Act provided added UI benefits to experienced folks and aided present UI benefits all through the COVID-19 pandemic to people today who did not in any other case qualify, which includes business enterprise entrepreneurs, self-utilized staff, impartial contractors, and these with a restricted get the job done heritage.
From April to October 2020, Llerenas filed and brought on the filing with EDD of fraudulent unemployment insurance policies positive aspects that falsely asserted the named claimants were being self-employed unbiased contractors – generally identifying them as cake decorators or party attendants – who have been negatively influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Llerenas received some of the names, Social Safety numbers and other determining data she employed to post the fraudulent statements by way of her prior operate as a tax preparer.
In her plea settlement, Llerenas also admitted to falsely stating on some of the applications that the claimants were being inhabitants of California entitled to unemployment insurance plan benefits administered by EDD when in point they lived in other places. She also admitted that, on some apps, she inflated the amounts of money she reported for the claimant to optimize the benefit volume. She also admitted to at times filing a dozen or extra fraudulent EDD statements in a day.
As a final result of the fraudulent unemployment gains applications that Llerenas filed and caused to be filed, EDD authorized Financial institution of America to mail debit playing cards in the names of the claimants to addresses she supplied, like her home, her husband’s business enterprise locale, her mother’s condominium and the addresses of pals and other family members users.
Llerenas admitted that she charged the named claimants a payment for filling the purposes, which was usually paid out of the fraudulently obtained benefits. In at the very least a single circumstance, she explained to the named claimant that she was nonetheless employed at EDD and could control the distribution of the unemployment insurance coverage benefits, and then demanded an supplemental payment for “releasing” the added benefits.
In overall, 197 debit playing cards have been fraudulently issued mainly because of this scheme, resulting in losses to EDD and the United States Treasury that Llerenas has admitted had been at the very least $1,633,487.
Llerenas is scheduled to make her first visual appeal on September 22. The felony offense to which Llerenas has agreed to plead guilty carries a statutory optimum sentence of 20 decades in federal jail.
The Office of Labor-Business office of Inspector Typical, EDD-Investigations Division, Homeland Safety Investigations, United States Postal Inspection Services, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Social Safety Administration-Office environment of Inspector General investigated this make any difference.
Assistant United States Attorney Ranee A. Katzenstein, Main of the Key Frauds Section, is prosecuting this scenario.
On Could 17, 2021, the Legal professional Typical recognized the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Process Power to marshal the resources of the Division of Justice in partnership with companies throughout govt to greatly enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.
The Task Pressure bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and global criminal actors and assists organizations tasked with administering reduction programs to stop fraud by, among other procedures, augmenting and incorporating present coordination mechanisms, identifying means and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their techniques, and sharing and harnessing information and facts and insights attained from prior enforcement initiatives. For much more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please go to https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Any person with info about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by contacting the Section of Justice’s National Middle for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by means of the NCDF Net Criticism Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-grievance-sort.