SACRAMENTO – On May 18, 2017, two people, including a former California Employment Development Department employee, were arrested for their alleged roles in an unemployment benefits fraud and an identity theft scheme. According to an 18-count indictment, five people were involved in the scheme and now faces charges.
The indictment charges:
- former EDD Tax Compliance Representative Pamela Emanuel, 57, of San Jose;
- Gregory Lee, 55, of Antioch;
- Russell White III, 35, of Turlock;
- Brittany Maunakea, 27, of Turlock;
- and Sergio Reyna, 24, of Stockton
with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 16 counts of mail fraud. Emanuel and Lee are also charged with separate counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, between April 13, 2013, and July 14, 2016, the defendants conspired in a scheme to defraud the State of California. Emanuel allegedly used her position at EDD to access the personal identifying information of workers throughout California and gave that information to other members of the conspiracy who then filed fraudulent unemployment claims in the names of the unknowing victims. When Emanuel contacted EDD to pose as a laid-off employee, she used a Virtual Private Network designed to mask her IP address in an attempt to hide her identity. When the defendants filed claims with EDD, they usually provided the name of a fake business as the claimant’s last employer. As a result, the victim’s true employer was not immediately notified that a claim was filed.
The scheme resulted in the conspirators receiving more than $800,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits using more than 250 stolen identities.
The investigating agencies include: the California Employment Development Department – Investigations Division, the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“California EDD investigators routinely team with local, state and federal departments to combat fraud such as this,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “The alleged actions of this one state worker should not reflect on the honest, hard- working State of California employees who value their trusted roles as public servants.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Emanuel and Lee also face statutory mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, which would run consecutive to any other sentence imposed.