SACRAMENTO— On August 16, 2018, Brittany Maunakea, 29, of Manteca, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for her role in a scheme to defraud the State of California by filing false unemployment insurance claims. Maunakea was also ordered to pay $139,071 in restitution.
According to court documents, beginning in February 2015, Maunakea entered a scheme to defraud the State of California by filing false unemployment insurance claims with the California Employment Development Department (EDD), using the stolen identities of more than 250 California workers. In total, Maunakea and four co-conspirators filed at least 269 false claims seeking more than $2.5 million in fraudulent benefits. EDD’s actual overpayment was $898,899. Maunakea participated in the scheme by receiving and facilitating EDD documents at her home and using debit cards issued in the names of identity-theft victims to withdraw the fraudulently obtained benefits.
“Unemployment benefits are meant to assist honest individuals who are not working and are in search of employment,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “EDD investigators work to identify those unscrupulous people who steal from all of us when they defraud the State of funds.”
Maunakea is the first of five defendants charged in the scheme to be sentenced. Co‑defendant Sergio Reyna has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and is set to be sentenced on September 6, 2018. The charges against co-defendants Pamela Emanuel, Gregory Lee, and Russell White III remain pending.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Employment Development Department, Investigations Division.