BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Seventeen people have been charged in an unemployment insurance fraud scheme that cost the state Employment Development Department more than $394,555, Kern prosecutors said Friday.
Charges include grand theft and conspiracy with some defendants facing three years in prison, others six and one a 12-year term if convicted, according to a District Attorney’s office news release.
“Investigators have been working to hold responsible those that defrauded Californians of billions of dollars in funding,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in the release. “These recent filings indicate the progress that continues to be made toward bringing to justice the participants in the greatest fraud in state history.”
During the pandemic, more than $20 billion was fraudulently taken by “people, gangs, or fraud rings” — including inmates, the release says. Some fraudulent applications were submitted online using stolen identities while in other cases inmates worked with people on the outside to submit claims on their behalf.
Once approved, ATM cards were issued and cash withdrawn.
The following were charged: Paul Ayala, Angela Acosta, Michael Clouse, Luciano Franco, Nicholas Peaker, Kessha Johnson, Lonnie Harris, Victoria Viera, Bryan Gonzalez, Antoya Cato, Lawanda Rivers, William Brown, Anthony Dabbs, Loreno Trevino, Destiny Ontiveros, Hector Manzaneres and Stephanie Perez.
Before the most recent filings, Kern prosecutors brought charges in six other EDD fraud cases totaling $149,000 in losses, the release said. More cases are expected.