Federal authorities have filed charges in two newly uncovered conspiracies to cheat California’s pandemic unemployment benefits system, including one by a former Employment Development Department employee who was able to scam more than $200,000, including one claim that used the name of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Authorities Thursday said that former EDD employee Andrea M. Gervais allegedly participated in a mail fraud conspiracy in which she filed more than 100 false pandemic unemployment assistance claims using stolen personal information, including a successful effort paid in the name of Feinstein for $21,000.
“The senator’s office is aware that an individual used the senator’s name — along with multiple others — to file fraudulent unemployment claims,” said Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for the Senator. “The matter will be handled by law enforcement and the courts.”
Court filings say that Gervais formerly worked for EDD from 2010 to 2018 as an office assistant under the name Andrea Dangerfield. Gervais was fired by the agency in October 2018 after an internal investigation implicated her in the theft of a money order, according to a request for a search warrant for her house and car presented to a federal judge on Dec. 11.
In that request, investigators allege that in all, 12 claims totaling about $216,000 were paid by the agency, with proceeds sent to Gervais’ home in Roseville, a suburb of Sacramento. The benefits were from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program to help gig workers, independent contractors and others.
“Unfortunately, these unemployment insurance benefits that were intended for Californians hit hardest by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shutdown have become the target of what may prove to be the largest fraud scheme ever perpetrated against the taxpayers in California history,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, whose office is prosecuting the case. “This theft of taxpayer dollars intended to assist our citizens in a very difficult economic time simply will not be tolerated.”
The investigation began when fraud investigators with Bank of America, which handles benefits, discovered the Feinstein claim and became suspicious, according to source familiar with the investigation.
Bank investigators contacted the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Labor, revealing it had found 17 California unemployment profiles and one claim from Maryland, and had issued 21 prepaid benefits debit cards to those claimants, all going to the same Roseville mailing address as the claim for the senator.
Subsequently, the California EDD received a claim from Gervais in her own name, alleging that her hours as a shelf stocker at Goodwill Industries had been cut.
When authorities matched that address in Gervais’ personal claim with those of the suspect claims, investigators began watching her at the wood-sided duplex where the money had been sent….
Go to the news source: Former California EDD worker faked being Dianne Feinstein in scamming jobless be…