LOS ANGELES – On July 7, 2020, law enforcement officers arrested eight people named in a federal grand jury indictment charging them with creating nonexistent businesses and then claiming more than $1.1 million in unemployment benefits for purported employees of those fake businesses.
The nine-count indictment alleges a three-year conspiracy to cheat the state’s unemployment insurance program through the creation of bogus cleaning services and boutique stores, sometimes using the names of prison inmates as phony employees to collect the benefits.
“California Employment Development Department investigators work with other state, federal and local agencies to protect a fund meant to assist those who need temporary benefits due to unemployment,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Their investigations can be long and complicated from beginning to end, but they see it through to prosecution.”
The indictment charges each of the eight defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Those named in the indictment are:
- Donna Givens, 58, of Los Angeles;
- Catrina Gipson, 44, of Moreno Valley, who is Givens’ niece;
- Evelyn Taylor, 36, of Gramercy Park, a daughter of Givens;
- Laron Taylor, 34, of Buena Park, a son of Givens;
- Latrice Taylor, 37, of Buena Park, a daughter of Givens;
- Raschell Taylor, 30, of San Bernardino, a daughter of Givens;
- Bianka Logie, 45, of Moreno Valley; and
- Vernisha Jolivet, 27, of Indianapolis.
From February 2013 until July 2016, the defendants allegedly registered fake businesses with the California Employment Development Department. The names of the bogus companies included Latasha’s Devining Cleaning Service, Charm Boutique, and Infinite Cleaning Service, according to the indictment. Givens, Laron Taylor, and Raschell Taylor allegedly opened and maintained post office boxes responsible for receiving the fake businesses’ mail.
Logie, Jolivet, and Evelyn Taylor filed claims for unemployment insurance in their own names, claiming unemployment from the fake businesses created by the co-conspirators, the indictment alleges. Other times, the conspirators allegedly filed unemployment insurance claims using the names of other people, including prison inmates.
After being supplied California EDD-funded debit cards, the defendants allegedly withdrew funds from the cards that were in the name of other claimants. In total, the defendants fraudulently obtained approximately $1,106,282 in unemployment insurance benefits, according to the indictment.
If convicted of all charges, each defendant would face a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.
This matter was investigated by:
- the United States Department of Labor,
- Office of Inspector General a
- nd California EDD Investigation Division,
- with assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service
- and U.S. Marshals Service.