A 38-year-old Stockton man was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for allegedly defrauding the California Employment Development Department. According to the Department of Justice, the defendant was convicted of identity theft and mail fraud charges for receiving unemployment benefits that he was not entitled to.

With the assistance of a co-defendant, the San Joaquin County resident purportedly created false companies between December 2014 and January 2018. He then hired fake employees to work at these fictitious businesses. Some of those workers’ names reflected actual people whose identities had been stolen by the defendants.

After the false employees were reported as fired or laid off from their make-believe jobs, the defendants then applied for unemployment insurance benefits using those identities. The State of California EDD then mailed debit cards to addresses that were related to the defendants or their associates. The Stockton resident was purported to have received close to $500,000 in unemployment benefits payments that were provided to him on various California EDD debit cards. The defendant was caught on surveillance cameras withdrawing cash from ATM machines using the debit cards that the EDD issued in the names of the people whose identities were stolen.

An accusation of using a fraudulent identity to receive unemployment, social security or other government benefits is a serious offense. A person facing charges of fraud may not always be convicted, but if found guilty, the punishment may include incarceration, fines and restitution. The California EDD makes available a listing of penalties and the related types of fraud commonly used to illegally obtain unemployment, disability or paid family leave benefits.