SACRAMENTO-On September 20, 2018, Sergio Doriante Sanchez Reyna, 25, of Stockton, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison and ordered to pay $436,091 in restitution for his role in a scheme to defraud the State of California by filing false unemployment insurance claims.
According to court documents, between December 12, 2014, and July 14, 2016, Reyna conspired with others to defraud the state of California. Pamela Emanuel, 57, of San Jose, worked as a tax compliance representative for the California Employment Development Department (EDD). She allegedly used her position to access the personal identifying information of workers throughout California, and she and her co-conspirators used that information to file fraudulent unemployment claims in the names of the unknowing victims.
The conspirators took several steps to avoid detection. In some instances, they used a Virtual Private Network designed to mask their IP addresses when making online filings. 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.
Reyna participated in the scheme by receiving and facilitating EDD documents at two Stockton addresses associated or controlled by him and using at least 18 EDD debit cards issued in the names of identity-theft victims to withdraw the fraudulently obtained benefits. In total, the conspirators filed at least 269 false claims seeking over $2.5 million in fraudulent benefits. EDD’s actual overpayment was approximately $887,199.
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.
“EDD investigators work to protect unemployment benefit funds by putting a stop to those who fraudulently file claims,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Unemployment benefits are there to support people in California as they search for work.”
On August 16, 2018, Brittany Maunakea, 29 of Manteca, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Gregory Lee, 56, of Antioch, has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 13, 2018. Charges against Emanuel and Russell White III, 35, of Turlock, are pending.
“Sergio Reyna conspired with others in an unemployment insurance (UI) fraud scheme targeted at the California Employment Development Department (EDD). Reyna facilitated the scheme by receiving EDD documents and obtaining debit cards issued in the names of identity theft victims to fraudulently obtain the UI benefits. We will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners to safeguard the UI system from those who exploit these benefit programs,” said Abel Salinas, Special Agent-in-Charge, Los Angeles Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.