Two Turlock residents are among five people who have been indicted in a scheme that stole the identities of more than 250 people and collected more than $800,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits, authorities said.
Russell White III, 35, and Brittany Maunakea, 27, both of Turlock are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 16 counts of mail fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento announced Thursday.
Federal prosecutors said White and Maunakea filed fraudulent claims with information they received from an alleged conspirator, who worked as a tax compliance representative for the state Employment Development Department.
Pamela Emanuel, 57, of San Jose; Gregory Lee, 55, of Antioch, and Sergio Reyna, 24, of Stockton were also indicted by a federal grand jury. They also are charged with with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 16 counts of mail fraud.
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The federal indictment was unsealed after Emanuel and Reyna were arrested Thursday. The alleged criminal conspiracy occurred from April 13, 2013 through July 14, 2016.
Emanuel was the tax compliance representative for the state Employment Development Department. Federal prosecutors said Emanuel used her job to access the identifications of workers throughout the state, giving that information to other members of the alleged conspiracy to file the fraudulent unemployment claims in the names of the unknowing victims.
When Emanuel contacted the state agency online to pose as a laid-off employee, she used a virtual private network designed to mask her Internet provider address to disguise her identity, according to authorities.
The prosecutors said the defendants filed the claims with the state agency, usually providing names of fake businesses as the claimant’s last employer. As a result, the victim’s real employer was not immediately notified that a claim was filed.
If convicted, the defendants each would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.
Emanuel and Lee also are charged with aggravated identity theft. If convicted on those charges, Emanuel and Lee would each face a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in federal prison which would be served in addition to any other prison sentence imposed.